It’s that time of the year…March Madness! As most of us enjoy watching some quality basketball, there are many people out there trying to improve their game and athleticism to reach the level of competition they desire at the high school, college, and professional levels. One of the most challenging elements of basketball to improve is the Vertical. The advantages of improving a vertical include blocking shots, rebounding better, attacking harder, and ultimately dunking the ball better. Jump training can be as simple as thinking about how to jump to a home workout of heavy weight lifting for force production. I will be providing tips, exercises, and technique to help maximize your vertical gains.


First, watch people you would like to emulate and practice their approach. Focus on jumping off one and two legs. Picture the jump in your mind and walk yourself through every step of their form. After you have a good idea on how you will approach the jump, it’s time to practice. Start slow going through the footwork and as you gain comfort, increase the speed and force you use. Repetition is now the most important thing to focus on. With 1000’s of repetitions, the form, force used, and comfort will improve. This will be your basis for training and achieving comfort with the form must be achieved prior to moving on to the next steps.


Stability is extremely important in jump training. Without your ankle and foot being stable on the ground, you will not be able to accelerate into the air with maximal efficiency. Your ankle, foot, and hips all play a major role in the stability of the jump in order to maximize hip, thigh, and calf use.

Incorporate these single leg balance exercises into your home workout:

  1. Jump landing in a single leg squat.
  2. Jump landing into a single leg squat on an unstable surface.
  3. Jump landing into a subsequent jump.


This is the MOST important thing you can do. Practice, practice, practice! Practice stationary jumps, box jumps (with and without back steps), jumping to touch a marker overhead, lateral jumps, forward/backward jumps, and sequential jumps (2-5 consecutive). Coordination, muscle recruitment, overall force, and application are achieved with repetition.

Strength Training

Strength training is the last step in improving your vertical. With strengthening training, you must have good form. Without proper form, training is near useless and your risk of injury greatly increases. That being said, strengthening will be the way to build on top of the neurological gains you achieved in the previous steps. This list of exercises is not all-inclusive, but these are the muscle groups you will need to focus on to increase your vertical. Add these exercises to your gym or home workout.

  1. Squatting
    1. Back squats
    2. Front squats
    3. Butt to heel squats
  2. Deadlifts
  3. Weighted Jumps
    1. Band resisted
    2. Weight resisted
  4. Single Leg Squats
    1. Pistol squats
    2. Split squats
  5. Glute/Ham Raises or Eccentric Hamstrings
  6. Resisted Calf Raises

I hope this helps anybody trying to guide their jump training. Gaining in your vertical is a very rewarding and fun achievement. Dunking a basketball was one of my first goals in life and with a lot of hard work, I was able to achieve this by my junior year of high school and enjoyed doing it for years afterward while playing basketball. To all those striving to make gains in their vertical, best of luck and enjoy the gains!

If you need some extra help in determining a home workout geared toward increasing your vertical or if a nagging pain is stopping you from giving your all on the court contact one of our clinics. We will help you get back to the things you love.

Being a licensed physical therapist, or any health care provider at that, we can sometimes get stuck looking at the specific things we specialize in, forgetting ALL of the things that can influence pain in the body. Physical therapists are very good at treating neuromuscular and musculoskeletal conditions to improve certain pains in a natural way. Inflammation is a huge target for our interventions. We often use tools, modalities, techniques, and training to reduce the presence and effects of inflammations in our patients. This, however, is not the end-all. Many people do not consider the impact of diet on inflammation.

What’s Inflammation? Why is Chronic Inflammation Hard on Your Body?

First, let’s start with defining inflammation. Inflammation is a natural process in the body and is needed for tissue healing. So inflammation is good then? In short, yes. However, inflammation that remains in a tissue for an extended period of time, past the level of initial tissue healing, can be detrimental.

The Impact of Diet on Inflammation

Many different things can cause inflammation in our bodies, being both internally and externally mediated. The gut, or gastrointestinal system, is a major player in your body’s regulation of inflammation and is often overlooked. This group of organs was previously known only for digestion and not for much else, until recently. Research continues to unpack the significant impact of the gut on obesity, autoimmune diseases, and even inflammatory pain.

So how does our gut feed into this? The foods you eat and the drinks you consume directly interact with your gut. To keep it simple, the interaction of the things you consume cause your body to create inflammation in different areas, including your joints, muscles, stomach, brain, organs, even systemically (your entire body). Therefore, what you eat and how well your gut mediates its digestion impacts everything in your body, especially inflammatory pain!

Let’s look at what we know:
1) A chronic inflammatory state is unpleasant and undesirable.
2) The things we consume do impact the natural function of our body on a daily basis.

So all you have to do is avoid all bad food forever and life will be perfect! Yeah … not happening. You want to do something that works for you, whether that is starting a whole new diet, or just starting one meal at a time. Like I said before, the influence is daily; starting at whatever level you can is 90% of the battle.

Foods to Avoid

You can start by identifying key foods that impact the body in a negative way. Remember, it may seem exhausting but simply beginning to eliminate items at your own pace WILL help. Sparing the science behind it, well at least a little bit, here is a list of 8 ingredients/foods that are known to cause inflammation according to the Arthritis Foundation.

  • Sugar
    1. Examples: Desserts, candy, soda, fruit juice
    2. Effect: Inflammation through cytokine release
  • Saturated fats
    1. Examples: Pizza and cheese
    2. Effect: Trigger fat tissue inflammation
  • Trans fats
    1. Examples: Fast, fried, and processed foods
    2. Effect: Triggers systemic inflammation
  • Omega 6 fatty acids
    1. Examples: Vegetable, corn, sunflower, peanut, soy oils
  • Refined carbohydrates
    1. Examples: Flour products (bread), white rice, white potatoes, and cereals
    2. Effect: Triggers immune response through AGE
  • MSG
    1. Effect: Triggers 2 chronic inflammatory pathways
  • Gluten
    1. Effect: Inflammatory for those with Celiac’s disease
  • Aspartame
    1. Effect: Body can attack it as a foreign invader
  • Alcohol
    1. Moderation is key

Next Steps

If you can, I encourage you to go further. Looking at and investigating certain diets based on your genes, the bacteria in your gut, and activity levels would be the best path to maximizing gut health and promoting a healthy, functioning body. Functional medicine specialists are some of the best healthcare professionals to consult to determine your specific course of action. Doing so would give you a very detailed plan of action tailored to your body and its processes. It can maximize overall function, decrease pain levels, increase energy levels, and help with concentration, metabolism, sleep, clarity, etc. … it seems like it enhances pretty much everything!

So what does this mean for you? If you are dealing with pain, visit any of our many locations around the valley and a licensed physical therapist can help! We will tailor our treatment to your body specifically depending on what you need. As a very important adjunct, however, you can begin to tackle the many facets of an inflammatory diet independently, or with the help of a physician. Don’t waste your time waiting. Start today and take control of your body!

It’s something I see time and time again in the physical therapy industry; patients experience arm pain without knowing if or why something is wrong. This pain can range from pain in the upper arm, elbow, hand, or worse, pain throughout the entire extremity. But before you pull your hair out trying to figure out how to treat your arm, we need to look at the neck!

Simple actions from how you turn your head to how you hold your cell phone require little to no thought on our end. However, when poor movement patterns are used to perform these actions it forces the movement from a small location rather than normal movement from a larger region.  This commonly results in abnormal wear and tear on joints in the neck, upper back, and shoulders. While this problem doesn’t occur overnight, repetition of these movements often catches up with us.

Arm pain can present itself in a myriad of ways, all slightly different. As a patient, however, your main concern often won’t be with diagnostics, but rather one of these two questions:

1. How can I prevent this from occurring?

Posture, posture, posture! Most activities we do are front facing. We tend to lean our head and trunk forwards, and do activities for far too long in these positions. Take computer work, for example. Over time, we eventually look and lean closer and closer as we surf the internet, work, or play games. We continually promote poor posture versus simply correcting it.

Simple neck and chest stretches, as well as postural strengthening can help correct sustained poor posture. This not only helps with how you hold yourself but also improves how your neck, back, and arms all function, decreasing likelihood of pain and dysfunction.

2. What can be done to get this pain out of my arm?

Physical therapists at Foothills Sports Medicine see this kind of pain very frequently and know proven techniques to reduce it. We focus on making sure your neck, back, and body move correctly, and that the solutions are crafted specifically for you.

If you feel this is a potential issue, set up a free consultation for pain management at your nearest Foothills location. Our dedicated hands-on staff is here to help you get to the bottom of your pain and discomfort.

As a physical therapist, I truly enjoy helping people recover from their injuries, getting them back to doing the things in life they love. However, I often only see people who are already injured and rarely get to utilize preventative measures.

My job utilizes a hands-on approach to medicine, using specific means to enhance bodily function. I use modalities to control pain and enhance function, and exercise to maximize the strength, flexibility, and mechanical aspects of a person’s body during specific activity. Physical therapy is a great means to return to proper health once an injury occurs. But what if you could work on aspects of your health prior to an injury?

The following is to provide you, the reader, with education and a small exercise regimen so you can understand and work on maintaining a healthy body.

Let’s start with the spine. The spine begins at the base of the skull and ends in the sacrum (tailbone). There are normal curvatures that your spine must utilize for proper function—the curvatures toward the front of the body in both the neck (cervical spine) and low back (lumbar spine). There is an opposite curvature in the mid back (thoracic spine) that must go away from the front of your body. Maintenance of these curvatures is crucial to spinal health, and limited or excessive amounts of these curvatures will affect the entire spine, not just local aspects.

For example, a postural abnormality can be visible in individuals with a drastic curvature in their thoracic spine. It may seem as if they walk facing the ground because of how the curvature has affected their neck and lower back. Although amplified for the example, this is the most common type of postural abnormality seen.

Many people don’t experience pain with this abnormality while others do. This type of posture reduces the curvature in the neck and lower back, placing a new and greater demand for support on the muscles of these regions. This posture also changes the mechanics of the spine, reducing absorption during motion.

Any progression towards this type of posture can affect all aspects of the spine including the muscles, ligaments, discs, and vertebra. The impact isn’t just local, any impairment of the spine can influence neighboring regions above and below. For this reason, spinal health is important for a person who wants to maintain good total body health.

Using cell phones and computers, reading, sitting, and even lying in bed with too many pillows can all predispose a person to this postural abnormality. You also have to take into account the time spent in many of these positions or doing these activities.

There are many factors to maintaining a healthy back that have to do with diet, level of activity, flexibility, mobility of the spine, neural tension, strength and stability, as well as genetic influences. It’s important to focus on flexibility, healthy activity, and strength to manage most aspects of spinal health.

To promote spine and back health focus on:

Abdominal strength

Most people correlate abdominal strength with sit-ups. However, there are four layers of abdominal muscles in the body and sit-ups focus mostly on one—rectus abdominis. The transverse abdominal muscle is key for lower back stability. When activated, this muscle provides the hips and back with stability that is crucial during bending, lifting, twisting, sitting and standing activity. Without activation of this muscle, it’s easy for the back to be overused for stability, resulting in back pain.

Abdominal Workout | Foothills Sports Medicine

Leg Strength

For standing related activity leg strength is also crucial. Strong glute and hamstring muscles give support and reduce the demand on lower back musculature for stability. This is especially important when bending, squatting, and leaning forward. You must remember to always use your legs for any bending or leaning, otherwise you place your low back at risk for injury.

Leg Strengthening | Foothills Sports Medicine

Leg Strengthening - Squats | Foothills Sports Medicine

Postural Exercises

These exercises are used to prevent progression toward “bad” posture, most of them are for the upper back and neck. For maximum benefits, it’s important that correct postural positions are practiced not only during the exercise but in daily life as well.

Postural Exercise | Foothills Sports Medicine


These exercises promote mobility of the spine and associated joints. They’re used to stimulate movement and motion in your spine that you may not normally experience throughout the day (you know the old saying, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”). For those already experiencing back pain, these exercises may not help your condition. If there is ever any pain, do not engage in the exercise.
Mobility Stretch | Foothills Sports Medicine

Mobility Stretches | Foothills Sports Medicine

When performing these exercises, it’s important to focus on form (rather than speed) to achieve maximum results. These can be done anywhere and do not require equipment. Please note—these are meant to help you feel better, if there is ever any pain, stop the exercise immediately.

If you have any questions about this information or any of the exercises, please contact your local Foothills Sports Medicine Phoenix physical therapy location today!


Photos courtesy of HEP2go.


Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy, an Phoenix physical therapy provider, is dedicated to providing hands-on, individualized care to people of all ages with a myriad of afflictions. To schedule a free assessment with one of our highly trained staff, simply click here. If you’re interested in learning more about physical therapy, follow our blog!

Phoenix physical therapy expert Jordan Brocker has an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences and a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. He is here to explain different causes of arthritis and how physical therapy can help improve this condition.

Osteoarthritis is a normal bodily condition caused by wear and tear to the body, which leads to deterioration of joint cartilage. This leaves bones unprotected, and eventually the joint’s deterioration can become so extreme that it leaves bone to rub against bone. Joint fluid that helps lubricate the joint for normal, smooth function is also deteriorated, leading to resisted motion and often-audible sounds when moving. Both of these factors play a role in pain and limitation of the affected joints.

Unfortunately, there are no means for entirely reversing the arthritis that has already developed. However, and more importantly, there is something you can do about it.

Research and my personal experience has shown that physical therapy can have positive results in reducing the impairments and pain caused by osteoarthritis. Factors that are important for a therapist to address include the following:

  • weakness and flexibility in muscles related to affected joints
  • stability of associated joints
  • specific joint motion and mobility
  • body mechanics that are influenced by different joints
  • balance and proprioception for lower extremity joints
  • muscle endurance

Physical therapy works to reduce the impairments caused by a person’s arthritis by addressing each of the above factors appropriately and uniquely for each individual. Everyone will have different causative factors that change how their arthritis is experienced and how it progresses. Your physical therapist must address these issues properly for you to receive the greatest benefit from treatment. PT will allow optimal function of the arthritic joint in order to prevent further deterioration, and promote its current integrity.

For example, a very common arthritic joint is the knee. Often, degeneration in the lateral (outside) aspect of the knee can occur at a higher level than the medial (inside) of the joint, due to more force being applied to the outside of the knee during weight-bearing activities. The knee position that causes this is known as genu valum, and is seen when the knee is positioned toward the middle of the body, not the hip. The culprits responsible this positioning are often weak hip and ankle muscles. Therefore, addressing the weaknesses in these muscle groups and applying it to activities (like walking or bending/squatting) could help reduce the abnormal forces on the knee, thus reducing irritation.

As physical therapists, we observe the local joint as well as the entire body to assess possible areas of impairment, and then improve the body mechanics of an individual. We create a program of specific exercises to best benefit each person’s needs, based on our evaluation process. We work towards creating independence with an exercise program for the patient that allow them to continue the exercises in their own homes, with proper understanding of the concepts behind the exercises to continue rehabilitation.

There are many factors that may dictate the effectiveness of treating osteoarthritis, such as severity of the issue, current or prior level of function, joint deformation, or other diseases that affect bones, joints, and bodily processes. If any of these factors are present, it does not mean that a person cannot do anything about their arthritis. However, it may affect the degree of improvement that can occur, as well as how long it takes to improve. Ultimately, doing something about osteoarthritis will be much more beneficial than staying idle and allowing the process to continue. By taking action, the degree of improvement you could achieve might change your life!