In my last blog post I outlined how the SAID principle can help us pick effective exercises for our canine athletes. So how do we continue to evolve these exercises and continue to challenge our four-legged fur balls of energy?
When I start cross-training a dog, I like to think about simple variables of exercise to fit the dog’s mental and physical skill and strength levels. There are 7 main variables of exercise, and plugging one or more into an exercise that you and your dog have mastered can offer up a much-needed challenge that can satisfy the needs of you both.
1. Speed/ intensity
4. Range of motion
5. Plane of motion
6. Body Position
A good example of this type of progression, using variables of exercise, is my “2 On To Up” exercise.
Check out Onyx performing the 2 on to up exercise at the intermediate level on the FitPAWS® Peanut.
Benefits of the 2 On To Up exercise:
- Target lower core muscle groups
- Engage eccentric muscle loading (elongating contractions) used to decelerate movement in real life and sport
- Active disengagement of hamstrings group
- Improved body awareness and strength
- Easy to teach and can evolve and continue to challenge an athlete
- Low impact exercise
The 2 On To Up exercise starts with an athlete that can easily get all 4 legs on a prop, like the FitPAWS® Giant Disc. If needed, starting with just a simple board or foam pad can do the trick if working on the perfection of the action/behavior is needed before making it harder.
The next step is to teach the dog to step off the prop, leaving rear legs on the prop and forelimbs on the floor, just like a 2o2o position for an Agility contact. Then, the actual “2 On To Up” exercise is to be able to back them up, placing all 4 limbs back on the prop. It is important to note that the dog must be standing while performing this exercise. If they sit during this action, they are only weight-shifting their front end up, not targeting their lower core musculature like we want.
Once the 2 on to up exercise is mastered on a prop low in height, you can start to progress by simply using a taller/ larger prop, like a FitPAWS® Donut. By using a larger prop you are changing the intensity, body position, range of motion, and resistance of this exercise.
You can continue to progress to larger and larger props, just like in the above video of Onyx, where she has to pull herself up with her lower core and hind limbs. For all of you worried about “tight hamstrings” this is one of the only exercises that also allows an active stretching of this muscle group.
If we want to progress the 2 on to up exercise further, we can take the actions already learned and move to the land treadmill.
The progression of a canine athletic exercise plan is essential in creating an optimum training environment, allowing the athlete’s tissues to adapt and strengthen, resulting in more precise movements.
Pogo is now working many of the muscle groups that she uses in decelerating actions in real life, but doing it safely, and controlled to best cross-train her for her real life sports.
We can even take this to a higher challenge and use a K9FITvest® to add even more resistance, facilitating the building of strength and body awareness.
Variables of exercise can be very inspiring to help you progress or tailor an exercise to your athlete’s cross training program. Try plugging them in to what you are doing today, and post a video on www.facebook.com/fitPAWS. We would love to see your athlete in action!
by Robert J. Porter LMT, CCRP
Robert Porter LMT, CCRP is the physical rehabilitation treatment supervisor at MedVet Medical & Cancer Center (Mandeville location). He was one of the first 30 people in the United States to become a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner from the University of Tennessee and has been working, full time, in the field of veterinary physical rehabilitation since 2000. Robby has a strong interest in positive training approaches to specific targeted exercise in canine sports medicine. Having a vast knowledge of canine pathology and years of experience working along side veterinary surgeons has given him a unique and creative perspective on approaches to therapeutic and conditioning exercises.