First post of 2017, and it’s a good one! I recently had the opportunity to interview Matthew Ibrahim, CSCS, LMT – a hybrid strength coach and therapist at Boston Physical Therapy and Wellness (Medford, MA) and Boston Underground Strength Training (Waltham, MA). He has an impressive resume and loads of experience in both the strength/training and rehab fields. He is the founder of “Movement Resilience” and co-leads the Hip Hinge 101 Workshops with Dr. Zak Gabor, PT, DPT. You can follow him on social media at the following links: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube.
JC: How did you get started in the rehab/fitness field?
MI: I’ve worked in both the Strength & Conditioning and Sports Rehabilitation fields since 2008. I started out by going to UMass Boston for my undergraduate degree in Exercise & Health Sciences. However, my academics were not stellar and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. While at UMass, I was fortunate to have had an internship at the world-renowned Mike Boyle’s Strength & Conditioning facility in Woburn, MA. It was a good blessing in disguise, really, because at the time I didn’t know what I was doing. I was under the direction of Nicole Rodriguez, and she really kicked my butt – in a good way. Overall, that experience sparked my interest into applying to PT schools. For the next 3 years I worked as a PT Rehab Aide at Bay State Physical Therapy (Arlington, MA), as I was also taking some pre-requisite courses applying to local PT schools. While I worked my way through school, I was observing treatments and evaluations. I was fortunate enough to have learned a lot under the direction of the PT’s there.
I also worked as a Strength Coach / Personal Trainer at few local Strength & Conditioning training facilities during that time. I was trying to prepare myself for PT school, and read up on a lot of books regarding movement and performance. Long story short, I applied to 5 PT schools for 2 years in a row, but never got accepted. I wasn’t ready to give up, so I tried to boost my resume and get some certifications. I wanted to show PT schools my commitment to helping the community and started what I branded as “Mobility 101” at the time as an educational resource. The goal was to make some content and videos and share what I had learned from my experience as well as learn from others. I never thought it would get to the point that it is now. I continued to network and meet other rehab professionals who, later, were connections that allowed me to write several articles here and there for various well-know fitness and rehab websites. I applied a third time, and yet again, was denied into PT school. At this point, I had considered other options such as PTA (PT Assistant) school – which I got into and turned down – just to have credentials to work with the rehab population. However, I had gained so much experience just from working and networking over the years that going back to PTA school just to have the letters seemed like a waste of time to me. Ultimately, I decided to go to Massage Therapy School (LMT) to gain hands-on experience for manual therapy and soft tissue skills, and utilize my knowledge and experience as both a Strength Coach and PT Rehab Aide.
Just prior to LMT school, I gained employment at Boston Physical Therapy & Wellness in Medford, MA, and began working as a Strength Coach and PT Rehab Aide – training all of their clients and also assisting the staff PT’s during rehabilitation of patients.
JC: Tell me a little more about your brand.
MI: As I mentioned before, I first created Mobility 101 as an attempt to boost my applications for PT school – I wanted to demonstrate to the admissions committee that I was committed to promoting better movement and wellness on the community level. I published content based on my experiences as well as things that I had learned along the way. I wanted to keep things simple – so to me, Mobility was a hot topic word at the time, and “101” to me has connotations of “introductory” and “entry level”. I started to build a large following on social media, including Facebook and Instagram – something that I had never expected when I first started. People started to see me as being knowledgeable in the field, so much so that about a year ago, I rebranded to “Movement Resilience”. I did not want any confusion with the public with my first brand of Mobility 101. I was getting emails at the time from professionals all over who were asking me for my advice and opinion on things that I was not qualified to answer, and instead were truly intended for physical therapists. I wanted to create clarity for my mission and ways in which I could help people – albeit, through in-person training or treatment, live workshops, or even via social media educational content.
JC: How do you feel like your unique background strengthens your rapport with your clients?
MI: I work out of 2 locations – Boston Physical Therapy & Wellness (Medford, MA) and Boston Underground Strength Training (Waltham, MA) – with mostly clients who are looking to increase their fitness and enhance their training. I picked up powerlifting as hobby of mine and to create focus in my own training. I wanted to compete and challenge myself. This background helped me to speak the same language as my clients, which gives them more confidence in me in terms of being able to help them. Walking the walk, to me, is something my clients look for, so it’s important to me to continue doing this. However, if someone were to have a more serious injury, I am not able to diagnose per my licensure and credentials; therefore, I use my team of physical therapists at Boston Physical Therapy & Wellness to refer a client to. In this sense, I am the “bridge” in the gap of training and rehab – acting as a liaison between the two. I’m very fortunate to work alongside intelligent and hard working professionals at both Boston Physical Therapy & Wellness and Boston Underground Strength Training.
JC: What is a typical treatment session like with you?
MI: What I offer now is treatment and training. I still work at Boston Physical Therapy & Wellness, working with athletes of all skill levels and ages. I utilize manual therapy techniques, soft tissue skills, IASTM, and also active cupping from the Modern Manual Therapy (Dr. Erson Religioso). I consult with our PT staff here and refer patients to them who I believe are out of my scope of practice. In my treatment sessions, I combine soft tissue mobilizations, movement education, and specific corrective exercises. The goal is to use the window of opportunity gained from the manual therapy to retrain and reload the area and improve their movement.
A normal session has what I call the “four pillars”. I want to see what’s going on. This process is similar to a PT treatment session – however, I am not diagnosing, and it’s important that I respect the scope that I’m in. Again, I refer out (aka walk into the next room to speak with our PT’s) when needed.
Here’s the breakdown of my treatment process, based on my four pillars:
Assessment – I’ll review the intake form and then perform a quick assessment to see what’s going on. I use my sports rehab experience and knowledge in assessment tools such as FMS, SFMA, and PRI to break things down a bit more. From these findings, I’ll tell my client the game plan for this specific treatment session.
Manual Therapy – I use specific hands-on treatment techniques to restore function and treat the specific condition. Some of the skills I use are based in manual therapy, soft tissue skills, IASTM, and also active cupping. My goal is to address the dysfunction found from my assessment and integrate localized manual therapy treatment where I see fit.
Movement – I’ll carefully select a few specific corrective exercises for my client to incorporate into their training to help address the problematic area and/or pattern. This process includes exercise instruction, lifting technique and form, pain-free movement, and recovery strategies.
Education – This is the most important aspect of my treatment approach, since my goal is to make sure that the positive changes we made during the treatment session continues into their daily life and activities. It is my goal to not only help clients get out of pain, but also teach them how to move well and build strength. I often find that helping them get into better positions during their training, and avoiding poor positions, typically gets them to train again, pain-free.
JC: Tell me a little bit about your new ‘Hip Hinge 101 Workshop’
MI: I started the Hip Hinge 101 Workshop with Dr. Zak Gabor (PT, DPT, CSCS, USAW), a dear friend and colleague of mine from Boston Physical Therapy & Wellness. There aren’t too many workshops with both a strong rehab and strong training background from the instructors. We both love the topic of low back pain and hip hinging (deadlifting), and saw a lack of understanding/efficiency in these areas, not only among the public, but also among both rehab and fitness professionals. The workshop focuses on creating spinal rigidity and maintaining a strong core that is necessary for hip hinge-based exercises and deadlifting. We break down the entire assessment and screen process, the research and pain science behind it all, demonstrate all of our progressions and regressions, and then get the attendees on the training floor as we provide hands-on coaching through their deadlifting.
We started in May 2016, and have had 6 workshops since then, each one averaging 15 attendees each time. After receiving positive feedback and requests for the 2017 year, we ended up booking 5 more workshops. For 2017, we want to spend more time on anecdotal evidence from the clinic/patients as well as evidence from the literature to support the how and why of breaking down the assessment/screen as well as various forms of cueing for proper movement. The 5 workshops booked for 2017 will be in an 8-hour full day format with CEU’s through NSCA. We want to teach people how to properly hip hinge and deadlift for long term resilience and training. Our goal is to make it open, educational, and easily applicable – all the while having fun.
JC: You’ve also been active on social media promoting education on low back and hip health.
MI: Yes, I have started the “30 Days of Low Back & Hip Health” series. I have had Dr. Zak Gabor as a guest on 3 of the days to lecture his thoughts on low back and pain science. I’ve created 30 one-minute exercise tutorial videos to explain the how and why behind the proper execution of certain exercises related to the low back and hips. I’ve also covered safe and effective ways to train hard and recovery intelligently. Since it’s hard to put it all together when the videos are all separate, there will be an article coming out on http://www.STACK.com at the end of the month that will summarize the whole 30 days in one spot!
JC: What are some tips/pieces of advice you’d give to someone looking to get into the rehab/fitness field?
MI: There are a few tips I’d give. We’re here to help people – people miss that point. We are here to change how they move within their bodies. We have the power to help make their movement efficient and get to a healthier place for long-term resilience.
- While it is important to do well in school and crush your academics, I think a lot can be learned at seminars and networking with those in the field, shadowing/visiting, and reading up on topics in the field. Have an entrepreneurial spirit. Form your own opinion. Keep your mind open and blend all of these aspects together. Above all, never stop learning. Apply what is useful and help your clients get stronger and healthier.
- Work on improving your interpersonal, intrapersonal, and social skills to enhance your level of communication with others – meet patients and clients half way, and help them get to where they want to be. Listen, understand and simplify the approach. At the end of the day, I always check in with myself to ensure that what I’m doing is simple, digestible, and easily applicable for the people I am working with.