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  • Writer's pictureSarah Barbosa

Get to know Dr. Sarah!

Hello everyone! I’d love to take the time to introduce myself and give you an insight of why I created my business.

My name is Sarah Barbosa, and I am a physical therapist in central New Jersey. In February 2023, I officially launched my business, Stronger Performance Physical Therapy, to help powerlifters, bodybuilders, everyday gym goers, and athletes return to lifting weights pain-free!

How did I get to this point?

I was a gymnast for 16 years with my fair share of injuries. It just so happened that the first time I needed physical therapy (PT) myself was around the time I had to start thinking about what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I could make a career out of being able to fix people’s injuries with exercise. How cool is that! I knew right away since I was as a sophomore in high school that PT is what I wanted to do and have never looked back.

I have two memorable personal experiences that stand out to me that have shaped me as the physical therapist I am today.

1. My personal experience as a patient in the insurance-based PT world.

I’ve had surgery on both of my shoulders after tearing my labrum from gymnastics. Rehab after surgery was going well. I got back to normal daily activities and then… insurance cut me. A letter in the mail read “You have been denied coverage as your condition is no longer medically necessary.” Really? That’s how insurance works? How was I going to return to gymnastics if I couldn’t do a handstand? That isn’t important to insurance. But to me, it was the most important thing. I had to pay out of pocket to continue PT, and I’m so thankful my physical therapist at the time gave me exercises to do at a gym, because that not only helped me get back to walking on my hands (yes, you read that correctly), but it gave me a reason to go to the gym, which was the start of my next chapter. Turns out, the typical insurance-based PT model is NOT for athletes and people looking to return to things beyond normal daily activities.

2. My desire to help people achieve their potential.

I’ve been lucky to work with amazing gymnastics coaches who helped me achieve some of my dream skills I never thought I would be able to do. So much so, that I stayed an extra year at my club gym after high school to continue training to make up for some of the lost time I’ve had from my injuries. I’ve also been lucky to work with incredibly knowledgeable physical therapists. Although I was lucky to have the opportunity to catch up on some missed time in my sport, I still sometimes wonder if I hadn’t lost that time, how much better of a gymnast could I have been? My physical therapists and coaches motivated me to be like them and be that person in someone’s life to help everyone achieve their potential.

After I ‶retired” from gymnastics, I began working out for myself and quickly realized I loved lifting weights. I started training with a bodybuilding focus and then learned the powerlifting movements (squat, bench and deadlift). Although you’ll never see me stop doing handstands and keeping up with some of my gymnastics skills, lifting weights is my new passion. It gives me a reason to keep pushing myself to become stronger and a better version of myself every day. There are so many other benefits to lifting weights. Preventing osteoporosis, helping with metabolism and weight regulation, fighting off cardiovascular disease, etc. Lifting weights is so much more than what it seems and is truly for everyone, not just athletes. The more time I spent in the gym, the more I realized another purpose for it... PHYSICAL THERAPY

Lifting weights can not only isolate individual muscles to make them stronger, but learning movements like how to squat or deadlift correctly can help teach you how to bend, sit from a chair, climb the stairs, and carry groceries without throwing your back out. It’s so applicable to everyday life and deserves to be part of physical therapy. TheraBands and ankle weights can only get you so far.

After graduating physical therapy school, I started my career working in an insurance based physical therapy clinic dealing with all kinds of people and injuries and I definitely learned a lot. Every now and then I would get a “gym” person, and I have to admit, these were my favorite people to treat… They had ambitious goals to get back to, things like being able to bench press without shoulder pain, deadlift or squat without back pain, or being able to compete in 1 week even though they just hurt their knee. While other people had told them to just “stop lifting heavy,” or “avoid the painful movement,” that wasn’t an option in my book, because I knew that was just an excuse coming from someone who doesn’t understand how beneficial lifting weights is for you.

I not only squat, bench press, deadlift, and do a whole lot of bodybuilding accessory movements weekly myself, but I train with a team of people who have a lot more experience lifting weights than I do. I learn from them, I watch them, and I train with them, day and in and day out for the last few years. I learned proper technique and basic principles of exercise because I do it every day myself. Combine my 16 years of gymnastics, 7+ years of lifting weights, 4 rounds of taking and teaching human cadaver labs to take my anatomy knowledge to the next level and coming out of PT school with my Doctorate degree, I knew I had something special to offer the gym population. However, I ran into a few problems being in the standard physical therapy world that doesn’t favor these kinds of people…

  • I didn’t have the proper equipment or environment.

  • I didn’t have the time to spend with my patients.

  • I was limited by insurance.

So, I created Stronger Performance Physical Therapy with a business model that allows me to give patients the care they deserve. I am based out of a gym (Next Fit Clubs in Hillsborough, NJ) with access to unlimited weights, machines, barbells, a turf, and the exact environment that allows an athlete to get stronger and be motivated to do so. I work one-on-one with my patients and help them get back to high level activities they love, whether it’s “medically necessary” or not. You’ll never get thrown off to an aide to do exercises or feel you’re being kept in care longer than you need to be. You also don’t have to be “injured” to work with me. If you feel a “tweak” in your joint when you lift, don’t brush it off until it becomes something larger. I do a full evaluation to see whether we need to improve your technique, strengthen the supporting muscles, increase your range of motion, or fix an alignment issue. I also get to work alongside an amazing team of personal trainers who can take your training to the Next level and really provide the perfect gym experience.

I am so thankful for all of my experiences and the shortcomings I saw in the field which has led me to create the dream I never knew I had. Creating this business allows me to help people continue doing what they love and makes me so fulfilled in each and every patient interaction.

I no longer have to “work” another day in my life.

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