Official Website of Sarah E. Rippel, BS, CPT, FMS

Posts tagged “core

Exercise Expertise: The Dead Bug

The almighty Dead Bug. It’s a great exercise! Many people are familiar with it, but not everyone implements a sound, logical progression into their routine.

Click on the link below to read my latest post over at! I expand on the Dead Bug exercise and lay out my current progression which covers 28 variations! That’s a lot of dead bugs! 🙂

I will continue to post links here, but as a reminder, I am no longer utilizing this blog as my main site.

Have a terrific Tuesday and keep expanding your exercise experience!

Sarah 🙂


-Posture & Movement Screening-

Last Tuesday I had a few hours to kill, so I figured I would mock-screen myself. I have a fairly good grasp on what my specific “issues” are, but it never hurts to go through things and encourage some healthy deductive reasoning! I am also working on bullet-proofing my body for the 2013 Tri season, so I am taking on myself as a Rippel Effect client. 🙂

In addition to both static and dynamic postural/movement assessments, I look at gait, and am constantly watching people move in general. The assessment process is an ongoing one. It all comprises the overall picture, and some may feel static postural assessments are a waste of time if one also does movement screening, but I feel that’s baloney!

I like to get as much information as I possibly can on each of my clients. I mean, I am apt to ask you on which side you carry your child or purse, how you typically sit while driving, and how you tend to sleep! If you sit at a desk for eight hours a day, it most definitely will be reflected in your static posture, which if less-than-desireable, will negatively impact the way you move.

It all adds up!

So, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to share my findings with you, in case you’re curious!

Static Anterior:

Supination as compensation
Tibia external rotation
Femur internal rotation
(Under active Lateral Sling; possible tight ITs)
Hip shift L w/slight lift
L upper trap more pronounced

Static Left Lateral:

Ankle neutral
Anterior pelvic tilt
Seems shifted forward
Shoulder protraction

Static Left Lateral OH:

Increased lordosis
Rib cage flare
Less shoulder extension ROM L

Static Left Lateral SL:

Femur flexed to 90
Good alignment

NOTE: findings on R Lateral weren’t much different from L

Static Posterior:

Femur internal rotation & tibia external rotation apparent
R foot slight turnout
L hip higher & rotated clockwise

Static Posterior HOH:

R scapula winging

Static Posterior OH:

L shoulder flexion & adduction more ROM
R erector spinae tone

Static Posterior SL R:

Not aligned
Lateral bend to L
Tight L QL/weak R hip

FMS: 15
(Scored as 0-3 for each of the 7 screens; no major asymmetries, thank goodness!)
Deep Squat – 2 (got to 90, torso parallel to tibia, dowel passed toes)
Hurdle Step – 2 (more stable on R/moving L)
Inline Lunge – 2
Shoulder Mobility – 2 (more ROM L; scored prior)
ASLR – 2 (more ROM R)
Trunk Stability Push-up – 3
Rotary Stability – 2

Decreased activity of Anterior Oblique Sling (L external oblique/R internal oblique/R Add), Posterior Oblique Sling (L lat/TL fascia/R glute max), and Lateral Sling (L QL/R GMed/R Add)
Increased activity of Deep Longitudinal Sling (especially L)

Specific Correction Protocols:
Scapular Positioning
Anterior Pelvic Tilt
Lateral Pelvic Tilt
Limited Shoulder Flexion
R SL Stance
R Scapular Winging:
Limited Shoulder Flexion & Adduction

Strengthen AOS (especially L external oblique/R internal oblique/R Add)
Strengthen POS (especially L lat/TL fascia/R glute max)
Strengthen LS (especially L QL/R GMed/R Add)
Inhibit DLS (especially L)

R GMax
R GMed
R Add
L Lat
L Ext Oblique
R Int Oblique

L Sacrotuberous Ligament
L Biceps Femoris
L Peroneus Longus
L Tib Anterior
R Erector Spinae

The follow-up to this post will focus on my protocols to address my specific issues!

Until then, it pays to know what’s goin’ on with your bod!

-The Importance of Single-Leg Stability for Runners & Triathletes-

Runners and triathletes, what does single-leg stability mean to you?

Not sure? It should mean a lot!

You’re being a smart endurance athlete by doing that “boring” strength and mobility work in the gym that’s gonna give you an edge on the competition. Major kudos to you for that, but if your exercises are along the lines of leg extensions, leg curls, and leg press, you need to step up your game.

First off, ditch the damn machines. If you know anything about my training philosophy, that should be a given.

Secondly, emphasize single-leg training.


Running isn’t performed on two legs! It is a single-leg activity!

It makes sense to train the body in a manner that transfers over to running, right?

I highly recommend the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) for every person I train. In a nutshell, the FMS is simply a tool that allows me to gain insight into a person’s ability to move. It is comprised of seven screens that cover the basic human movement patterns: deep squat, hurdle step, shoulder mobility, in-line lunge, active straight leg raise, trunk stability push-up, and rotary stability. Each screen is scored from 0-3. A score of zero is the result of pain being present during the screen and/or an inability to perform the screen. If pain is present, the screen is cancelled and the person is referred out to a doctor. On the flip side, a score of three indicates that the screen was performed in a manner that met the necessary requirements. A score of two is considered acceptable. A total score of 14 on the FMS is said to reflect a decreased risk of injury during exercise.

I video my clients’ screens in addition to viewing them at the same time. After the initial screen has been performed, I sit down and review the footage. This allows me to make notes regarding discrepancies in each movement in addition to scoring the screens. A client’s FMS score isn’t a diagnosis of anything, nor does it allow me to say “your left Psoas is tight and your right glute max is weak.” I am not a doctor and I’m not a physical therapist. I am, however, an aficionado of exercise prescription!

If a client scores a one on their trunk stability push-up, a one on their left hurdle step and a two on their right hurdle step, and a one on their right shoulder mobility and a two on the left, I make a priority of improving their ability on these screens. A screen that scores the left and right sides and results in a discrepancy between the two must be addressed. If there is a lack of mobility in a desired pattern, we work to increase it, and the same can be said for stability. You cannot build strength on top of dysfunction! 80% of people who exercise are most likely doing just that!

Promoting balance is the goal.

The initial FMS day is always eye-opening for people. Most people seek my expertise because they want to lose weight or train for a race. Most people do not give much thought to their movement abilities, but they definitely do after going through the FMS for the first time! Furthermore, it is always interesting to screen endurance athletes because more often than not, it allows them to grasp the importance of this strength and mobility schtuff. Yes, the “boring” schtuff…I mean, if its not swim/bike/run, why do it? Lol

I didn’t mean to get into an explanation of the FMS, but in true Sarah fashion it just came out. So, now that you know a little about movement screening, let’s get back to the importance of single-leg stability and that wonderful thang we call running!

If you’re a geek like me, then you cannot help but analyze the gaits of runners as you’re knocking out the miles. Yes, it’s a bit distracting, but I cannot imagine not being so aware of it! More often than not, I am witness to a plethora of funky gaits. I find myself cringing when someone doing the “Vibram shuffle” approaches me. You know, feet turned out and barely leaving the ground. So epic! There’s always gotta be a few of those who assume that the minimalist approach will magically make them a better runner. Instead, I have the feeling that most end up in pain. PROPER GAIT MECHANICS ARE MUY IMPORTANTE, PEOPLE! Yes, that important!

Sorry, I got on a roll there…

Single-leg stability. You need it. If you don’t have it, you must acquire it, or your running career will suffer.

Sounds serious…it is!

When we run, one foot is in contact with the ground while the other is not. Duh, right?! 😉 The ability to keep the pelvis in a relatively-level position during each phase of gait is what we want. If the hip musculature lacks the ability to stabilize the pelvis, the unsupported-side hip will drop below the level of the stance-side hip. A side-to-side “swaying” may result, and all of this means a huge waste of energy because of inefficient running mechanics. In addition, a lack of hip stability is a red flag for injury. If you want to enjoy a successful, long relationship with running/triathlon, it is issues like these that you MUST address.

Here is a simple, yet highly-involved exercise which challenges single-leg stability. I am using a Cook Band, but any resistance band will work. If your single-leg balance leaves much to be desired, you’ll want to use a band that offers more resistance. As you become more proficient, lighten the load.

The goal is to activate the core musculature and then perform the single-leg stance. Starting out, your body may not be able to get things firing properly, so that’s where the core activation via the band comes into play. Gradually work your way to using a light band as your ability to engage the muscles of your core/glutes improves.

Stand facing the band, which is anchored at a high point. Your feet should be in a neutral position. Assume proper postural positioning, perform shoulder extension and exhale (pull the band down so that your arms are towards the floor), then raise one leg, aiming for 90 degrees at the hip, knee, and ankle. Hold for a count of two, locking in your glutes and staying as still as possible. Sloppy reps are a waste of time! lower your leg and then release the band. Each rep is essentially a re-set. We don’t want protracted shoulders! if the exercise is too hard, use a band that offers more resistance. If your exercise execution looks like mine in the video, them you’re doing it right. 😉

Try two sets of ten 2-sec-holds per leg.

How can you go about finding out if your single-leg stability can be improved? Simple. Call me and schedule an FMS appointment. Your hurdle step performance (in addition to your proficiency in the other screens) will reveal all.

Yours in Health,
(225) 326-2317

-Progressing the “Dead Bug”-

The oh-so-dreaded Dead Bug…how my clients love/hate it so!

It is one of my favorite basic movements for teaching proper stabilization strategies, as well as the correction of faulty breathing patterns.

The “Wall Push” is an excellent variation that is excellent for beginners. Dr. Craig Liebenson has popularized the dead bug, combining the research and training of Pavel Kolar and Dr. Stuart McGill.  Craig’s article in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies on this exercise may be found at this link.

-Posture Pick-Me-Ups!-

Hey everyone!

Hope y’all are having a great week and staying COOL! It’s super-hot down here in Baton Rouge! I can’t wait for October to get here!

I wanted to take a few minutes to share a few “posture pick-me-ups” with you!

A great number of my clients and boot campers have jobs where they sit at a desk all day. Add to this the fact that many of us spend a great amount of time driving, watching TV, etc. and you can most definitely agree that this isn’t a good thing. Our posture suffers as a result, but there are ways in which we can counteract the daily “slump!”

When I work with clients, I always include mobility and activation exercises at the beginning of their workouts. I also like to sprinkle a few in as we go, and many exercises are what I call “big bang” exercises – they not only strengthen the body, but improve mobility and overall “harmony” between muscle groups.

The seated position wreaks havoc on our bodies. We tend to slump forward instead of sitting upright with shoulders pulled back. Our pecs and anterior delts become tight, while the opposing muscles of the upper back and neck become lengthened and weak. The weight of the human head itself contributes to this…and I know mine has gotta weigh at least 15 pounds, considering I’m such a genius… J

The spine is designed to do its job effortlessly, but when we impose repetitive movements and poor posture on it, it becomes less than happy. The spinal curves balance each other out, and when one has become irregular, the rest of the spine must adapt.

We fitness professionals in the know routinely focus on our clients’ body position in relation to the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. I am forever cueing clients with “keep your chin tucked,” “shoulders back and down,” and “keep core braced and glutes tight.” Go ahead and do the opposite of these – you will most definitely feel the strain placed on your frame!

So, what “posture pick-me-up” drills do I love these days? Here are a few…you desk jockeys give ’em a try and don’t forget to let me know what you think! Leave your comments below!

Side-Lying Chest Opener: 

Side-Lying Chest Opener Variation - Starting Position

Side-Lying Chest Opener Variation - End Position (hold for a count of 2 as you exhale)

Kneeling T-Spine Extension & Rotation:

Kneeling T-Spine Extension & Rotation - Starting position - inhale

Kneeling T-Spine Extension & Rotation – End position – exhale & hold for a count of 2

Squat to Stand:

Squat to Stand - Starting position

Squat to Stand - End position (basic) - hold for a count of 2 as you exhale and push knees out

Squat to Stand - End position (advanced) -after assuming basic end position, reach overhead and turn to look at hand. Do this for each side, then return to starting position.

Spiderman Walk:

Spiderman Walk - take a step forward to assume this position!

Spiderman Walk - End position - feels GOOD!

I’s, Y’s, and T’s:

I's - keeping thumbs up, "shrug" shoulders, gliding shoulder blades towards ears, then back down, keeping shoulders pulled back

Y's - End position - hold for 2 and exhale, then lower arms down

T's - keeping shoulders pulled back and down, raise to form a "T," exhale and hold for a count of two, then lower arms towards ground.

-A Work in Progress!-

Two years ago at this time, I was working out for at least an hour 5-6 days a week in preparation for my first triathlon.

Today, I sit here contemplating the fact that I will be finishing physical therapy next week, and haven’t gone for a run, ride, or a swim in three months. The extent of my physical activity (aside from my job) has been physical therapy twice a week.

Yep, things are WAY different.

Three months of basically a sedentary lifestyle in comparison to my “normal” way of doing things.

What has happened during this time?

Well, in addition to rehabbing my injury, I have had extra time to simply mellow out

Without the pressure to stick with my own exercise program, life has been quite simply, really.

To be honest, initially I thought I would freak out because of all of this. I mean, before this time, I believe the longest I’d ever gone without working out was something like 2-3 weeks.  Have I freaked out? No. I have done the opposite. I have stopped and smelled the roses. I have worked on other aspects of my life that needed some attention. Working out has always been a major factor for me, and without it, I’ve been able to reflect on my life and myself. I have had more time to spend with loved ones. I have taken a few road trips. I have learned to be lazy! I have learned to be quite proficient at taking naps!

Have I gained weight, you ask?

The opposite.

Hate me all you want, as an athlete, I’ve been accustomed to intense workouts and I’ve always had a great metabolism. Take away the workouts and my body loses muscle. I am not an overeater, nor am I the type to eat when I’m stressed. I’m the opposite. I tend to not eat enough when I’m stressed. What I’ve noticed over the past year or so is that my appetite has fallen by the wayside. You would think with all the exercising that I normally do, I’d be ravenous 24/7. Not the case. I eat when I’m hungry and eat a variety of foods, but I don’t deprive myself nor do I eat until I’m sick.

I am fortunate to be self-employed and have a schedule that is flexible! I have to admit, when things were at their worst a couple of months ago, and all I wanted to do was cry and be alone, the fact that I had to go be a positive influence on my clients kept me going! So did the fact that I am surrounded by loving friends, family, and yes, clients! Everyone has been so supportive and concerned. There was a point where I was not a very happy camper, and not having the ability to go for a run or a ride meant that I had to FEEL everything (instead of run away from it with exercise). Don’t get me wrong, I’m at a MUCH better place in my life than I was back when I was dealing with anorexia and exercise bulimia. Exercise, however, has always been a stress-reliever for me, and at times I realize that it may be best to deal with things in a different way. Writing is a prime example, and I am trying to get back to regular blogging. 🙂

8/2/2011 - 6PM & the heat index had dropped just a bit from 112!!!! We know how to cool off!

So, how do I feel about my left leg these days? Well, my anterior tibialis is still weaker than the right. I still cannot dorsiflex with the same ROM as my right, although it’s improved. My core and glute strength is much better. I feel that when I start back with my own workouts, I’ll be better able to handle them because of this. Obviously my endurance is gonna pretty much suck, but that’s to be expected. I am a bit nervous about my left leg never being “normal,” however. I can’t lie. Until the nerve is “happy” and unobstructed, I’ll keep noticing things aren’t completely right. In theory, once the disc fragment has been absorbed by my body, that nerve should act normal! I have seriously been waiting for that day to come. What if it never does? I guess that’s when the “next steps” are taken (according to my doctor).

Anyhow, I hope all is well with you and your own training! Never ever take your health or physical capabilities for granted. I know my herniated disc(s) and subsequent issues by no means compare to the challenges some others face, but they have definitely opened my eyes. I am thankful to have lived 35 active years, and plan on living way more than that! This is just a minor detour. I am never gonna stop!

Yours in Health,


-Last Night’s PM Boot Camp “Fun!”-

I cannot even begin to adequately put into words just how much energy this latest session of boot camp has had…especially the PM group! Don’t get me wrong, I love all of my clients…but the energy of the PM group is truly infectious! We have established a nice little “family” unit of roughly 15 upbeat, positive, supportive women in this group. Everyone is motivated and I love the fact that they are so encouraging of one another!

I will be posting soon about everyone’s goals and who managed to smash thru theirs! We have had some awesome progress this month!

Last night’s workout was seriously tougher than it appeared on paper. I wanted to emphasize upper body and do some “typical” dumbbell exercises. I threw in a new move with the sliders, as well as added some glute work to the mix. End result? Perfection! Even better was the fact that Sara (photographer rockstar) showed up with camera in hand and shot some more awesome pics and vids! When she came thru the door, I told her to head on back and deal with the moans and groans from the group! They just LOVE having their pics taken! 🙂 I want to thank y’all for being such good sports about the occasional Rippel Effect photo shoot!

I know some people may look at this workout and think, “wow, what a list of ‘sissy’ exercises!” To y’all, I say this: TRY IT. Every now and then, it’s good to break from the “traditional boot camp” way of doing things (ie: lots of burpees, pushups, running, and even the popular circuit-based workouts using kettlebells, TRX, etc). I don’t typically have my groups do a lot of “isolation” work, but every now and then, we gotta fry the triceps! Bottom line, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do things…in my book, there is only MY way, and that means adapting numerous training principles and styles to suit the needs of my clients.

Upper Body Bonanza…with a Whole Lotta “Bonus” Schtuff!

Warm-Up: Walk/Jog 5 min, followed by “Chopper” sequence (vertical, horizontal, and diagonal chops for 30s ea; 2 rounds)

Hip/Glute Work: Miniband Lateral Walks, Miniband Bridges, and Miniband Clamshells…oh my!; 2 rounds

Upper Body Circuit: 45s work/15s rest (we didn’t rest the entire 15s between most of the exercises!); 2 rounds

  1. Negative Push-Ups
  2. Single-Leg Biceps Curls (either alternating-arms or hold both dumbbells in one hand; 45s per leg)
  3. Bent-Over Flyes
  4. Lateral Raises
  5. 1-Arm Overhead Press with Rotation (hold both dumbbells in one hand if possible; 45s per side)

Slider Core Combo: Cinderellas (either 1-Arm, switching sides at halfway or 2-Arm for advanced) and Windshield Wipers; 45s ea, 2 rounds (see vids below)


Very Advanced Cinderellas!:

Tame those Triceps Superset: Staggered Kickbacks and Static Bridge Elbow Extensions; 45s ea, 2 rounds

Tons of stretching!

I tell ya, there is NOTHIN’ better than knowing you have put a group through an awesome workout! It’s easy to wear people out…that’s not my goal. My goal is to provide the best possible workout experience! That means: effective programming, progressions progressions progressions, and positive energy! There were lots of red, sweaty faces last night! Oh, and even better…we had a “newbie” join us last night! She worked hard and probably hates me today! 🙂

I’m obviously a bit partial, considering this is my business and these are my clients…so of course, i’m gonna talk things up as much as possible…but don’t take my word for it:

Hi Sarah! Great workout tonight. I really enjoyed it and I’m sure my butt, abs and shoulders will remind me all about it tomorrow morning.

I also wanted to thank you for being so great at your job! I have gained so much confidence in the past three months from your positive attitude and encouragement. Not to mention all the wonderful other ladies and their encouragement. It really means a lot to me, and helps boost the confidence even more, when there is such a great group bond and we all support each other. And, awesome, I plan to be 8 lbs lighter than Christmas by the end of Jan. Just 1.5 lbs to go! I tend to be a quiet, shy person and before starting the workouts I was so self conscious, bc i felt like i had no curves and was so much bigger than my friends. I also have asthma, mostly induced by allergens, but it was getting worse when I tried to run or do hard core workouts (boo at Gillian, those hurt and not the good way!). Now, I feel like I am getting curves and slimming down to a more healthy body weight. And, bonus, I can breathe soooo much better and my asthma attacks have happened much less frequently. Yay! Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I don’t think I could have gotten this far without you, the workouts & the other ladies. So thank you so much! Looking forward to atleast three more months of this feeling awesome and being awesome!

See ya tomorrow,


My job is the best. Love y’all! Thanks for rockin’ out this session!


2/1/2011 UPDATE: Here are some great pics from this workout (thanks to Sara Kelley Photography)!