Home Posts tagged "Flexibility" (Page 10)

Talking Shop: Bob Youngs’ Five

Eric Cressey

In addition to learning outside the gym, right off the top of your head, what are five things that our readers can do right now to become a better lifters, athletes, coaches, and/or trainers.

Bob Youngs

1) A good program must include: movement prep, flexibility work, injury prevention work, core work, cardio work, strength training, and recovery/regeneration work. Does that sound familiar? In other words, construct programs that incorporate all aspects.

2) Read one book per week. If you ever come over to my house you will see hundreds of books. I shoot for one new book per week.

3) Network within your given sport or profession. If you are a powerlifter, seek out lifters stronger than you and learn from them. If you are a strength coach, seek out another coach you think has something to offer that you don’t have. You get the idea. Most people are willing to share information if you ask them; this is usually the way you will learn the most.

4) Work smarter. Many people work hard; what makes a person the best at any given task is usually working smarter.

5) Have properly defined and realistic goals, and write them down. I am shocked by the amount of athletes and coaches who have one broad goal and no steps to get there. Set a big goal and then break it down into smaller goals. I will use a powerlifter as an example. I hear all the time, “I want to squat 800 pounds.” That’s great, but how do you get there? If you have a current max of 500, your next small goal might be to squat 550. Then, you break that down further to knowing you need to hit X on a given max effort exercise. Now, you have a goal every time you go into the gym.
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Fixing Leg Imbalances

Q: I have an imbalance - one leg vs. the other. Do you suggest doing 100% unilateral leg-work for a while to cure the imbalance? A: This is a tough one to answer; it's never as simple as "right and left." Generally, you'll see muscles on each side that are a bit stronger or weaker. For example, in right-handed individuals, they'll typically be stronger on lunging movements with the left leg forward. The left ITB/TFL, right quadratus lumborum, and right adductors will be tight, while the right hip abductors, left adductors, and left quadratus lumborum will be weak.* There are more complex ramifications at the ankle and foot, too. Often, the best way to address the unilateral imbalance in a broad sense is to figure out where people are tight/weak and address those issues. I've seen lunging imbalances corrected pretty easily with some extra QL work or pure stabilization work at the lumbar spine. The tricky thing about just doing extra sets on one side is that your body will often try to compensate for the imbalances. You might get the reps in, but are you really doing anything to even yourself out if you're just working around the dysfunction? This is just some stuff to consider. I don't think doing more on that side will hurt, but it won't always get you closer to where to want to be. Eric Cressey
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A Sign of Weakness

Q: I figure you would be a good person to ask about a question I have; it deals with excessive dorsiflexion and athletes. Kelly Baggett was explaining how people with excessive dorsiflexion rarely are good athletes. He said it is related to hip position. Could you elaborate on the subject?
A: As usual, Kelly is right on the money! I honestly wonder if the two of us are on some sort of wavelength with one another, as I think you could use our thoughts interchangeably in most cases! To answer your question, if there is too much dorsiflexion at the ankles, it is generally a sign that you're not decelerating properly at the knees and hips, so the ankles are taking on an extra percentage of the load. I would suspect weakness of the knee and/or hip extensors. To be honest, though, not many people are really capable of excessive dorsiflexion, as their calves are so tight. I suspect he's referring more to the fact that the heel is further off the ground and the knee is tracking forward too much as compensation (related to the quads being overactive, too). If you look at the research on jump landings in female athletes, you’ll find that they land with considerably more knee flexion than their male counterparts. We know that weak hamstrings are very common in females, and that this is one reason for their increased risk of anterior cruciate ligament injuries. The hamstrings are hip extensors, meaning that they also decelerate hip flexion. If they don’t have enough explosive and limit strength to control the drop of the hips upon landing, there’s no other option but to flex the knees extra to cushion the drop. It’s an unfortunate trend that just plays back into the quad-dominance (deceleration of knee flexion). Obviously, dynamic flexibility plays into this tremendously, too. If you can't get ROM in one place, your body will seek it out elsewhere. Eric Cressey Step-By-Step what it Takes to Become a Superior Athlete
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When Knee Met Dashboard

In December of 2001, I was rear-ended going about 30mph; five cars were involved, and I was the first car hit from behind. My knee hit the dashboard when I was hit from behind and my head was jerked backwards when I hit the car in front of me.

My knee started hurting soon after, although I never got it checked out. It’s now become a sharp pain and a constant, dull ache as well with weakness on stairs and squatting-type positions especially. In addition, there are tender areas, on the outside and top of the knee, that cause extreme pain when I am bending, squatting, lying down, or sitting down for too long. My hip has also been affected, also aching constantly. My right leg and knee also hurt and knot up easily. The surrounding muscles are very weak with several knots in them, and I also have a very tight iliotibial band. Any ideas what might be going on?

I thought "PCL" (posterior cruciate ligament) the second I saw the word "dashboard;" it's the most common injury mechanism with this injury. I’m really surprised that they didn’t check you out for this right after the accident; you might actually be a candidate for a surgery to clean things up. Things to consider:

1. They aren't as good at PCL surgeries as they are with ACL surgeries, as they're only 1/10 as common. As such, they screw up a good 30%, as I recall – so make sure you find a good doctor who is experienced with this injury to assess you and, if necessary, do the procedure.

2. It's believed that isolated PCL injuries never occur; they always take the LCL and a large "chunk" of the posterolateral complex along for the ride. That would explain some of the lateral pain.

3. The PCL works synergistically with the quads to prevent posterior tibial translation. As such, quad strengthening is always a crucial part of PCL rehab (or in instances when they opt to not do surgery). A good buddy of mine was a great hockey player back in the day, but he has no PCL in his right knee; he has to make up for it now with really strong quads.

4. Chances are that a lot of the pain you’re experiencing now is related more to the compensation patterns you’ve developed over the years than it is to the actual knee injury. For instance, the tightness in your IT band could be related to you doing more work at the hip to avoid loading that knee too much. Pain in the front of the knee would be more indicative of a patellar tendonosis condition (“Jumper’s Knee”), which would result from over-reliance on your quads because of the lack of the PCL (something has to work overtime to prevent the portion of posterior tibial translation that the PCL normally resisted).

5. From an acute rehabilitation standpoint, I think you’d need to address both soft tissue length (with stretching and mobility work) and quality (with foam rolling). These interventions would mostly treat the symptoms, so meanwhile, you’re going to need to look at the deficient muscles that aren't doing their job (i.e. the real reasons that ITB/TFL complex is so overactive). I'll wager my car, entire 2006 salary, and first-born child that it’s one or more of the following:

a) your glute medius and maximus are weak
b) your adductor magnus is overactive
c) your ITB/TFL is overactive (we already know this one)
d) your biceps femoris (lateral hamstring) is overactive
e) your rectus femoris is tighter than a camel's butt in a sandstorm
f) you might have issues with weakness of the posterior fibers of the external oblique, but not the rectus abdominus (most exercisers I know do too many crunches anyway!)

Again, your best bet is to get that PCL checked out and go from there. If you’ve made it from December 2001 until now without being incapacitated, chances are that you’ll have a lot of wiggle room with testing that knee out so that you can go into the surgery (if there is one) strong.

Eric Cressey
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Talking Shop: Experience Yields Perspective

Eric Cressey

They say that experience is the only thing that can truly yield perspective; I’d say that you’re a perfect example of that. Speaking of experience, what were some of the mistakes you’ve made along the way, and what would you do differently?

Bob Young

I’m not even sure where to start on this one. The easiest way to explain this would be to quote Alwyn Cosgrove, “A complete training program has to include movement preparation, flexibility work, injury prevention work, core work, cardiovascular work, strength training, and recovery/regeneration. Most programs cover, at best, two of those.”

My program only included strength training and some core work for the longest time, and I am now paying for that with chronic injuries. Now, I have had to learn about the other parts that I was missing; the more I incorporate this stuff, the better I feel. However, 15 years of not doing what I should have been doing has really cost me. I have torn my pec major, triceps tendon, intercostal, and biceps tendon. I also currently have a bulging disk in my lower back.

Could all these have been avoided? Probably not all of them, but I think some of them could have. If I had to name the biggest mistakes, it would be not using a foam roller and not doing any mobility work. In the two months I have been using the foam roller my tissue quality has improved dramatically. I have been doing mobility work, under your guidance, for about a month and I have seen some incredible improvements.

Eric Cressey

Correct your Training and Improve your Performance.
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Talking Shop: Mike Robertson’s Five

Eric Cressey:

If you had to pick five things our readers could do right now to become better lifters/athletes/coaches/trainers, what would they be?

Mike Robertson:

1. Start getting some soft tissue work done!

As Mike Boyle says, “If you aren’t doing something to improve tissue quality, you might as well stop stretching, too.” I firmly agree with him on this point, and while it may cost a few bucks, it’s going to help keep you healthy and hitting PR’s. This could be as simple as foam rolling, or as extreme as getting some intense deep tissue massage or myofascial release done. I’ve tried it all and all of it has its place.

2. Don’t neglect mobility work!

Ever since we released our Magnificent Mobility DVD, people are finally starting to see all the benefits of a proper warm-up that includes dynamic flexibility/mobility work. However, just because you understand the benefits doesn’t mean squat if you aren’t doing it! Take the time to get it done before every training session, and even more frequently if need be.

3. Understand functional anatomy

Again, you and I (along with many others), have preached this for quite some time, but I’m not sure enough people really understand how the human body works. Hell, I think I do, and then I get into some of these intense anatomy and PT related books and find out tons of new info!

Along these same lines, if you don’t understand functional anatomy, you really have no business writing training programs, whether they’re for yourself or for others. That may sound harsh, but for whatever reason people read a couple copies of Muscle and Fiction and think they can write programs. I’ve fixed enough broken people to know that very few people can integrate the functional anatomy into what amounts to functional programming (and no, that doesn’t include wobble boards, Airex pads, etc.).

Train your athletes at the next level.

4. Train to get stronger

While I’m all for all the other stuff that goes into training (proper recovery, mobility work, soft tissue work, conditioning, etc.), I think too many people want all the bells and whistles but forget about the basics. GET YOUR ATHLETES STRONG! Here’s the analogy that I use: performance coaches are asked to balance their training so that the athlete: a) improves performance and b) stays healthy. What I see right now is a ton of coaches that focus on all this posture and prehab stuff, but their athletes aren’t really that much better anyway. You have to work on both end of the spectrum.

Think about it like this: Let’s say you have this huge meathead that’s super strong but has no flexibility, mobility or conditioning, then throw him on the field. He may last for a while, but eventually he’s going to get hurt, right? You haven’t covered the spectrum.

But what’s the opposite situation? We have the coach who focuses on posture, prehab, etc., and the athlete has “optimal” muscle function but is weak as a kitten. Are you telling me this kid isn’t at a disadvantage when he steps on the field or on the court? Again, you haven’t covered the spectrum.

In other words, feel free to do all the right things, but don’t forget about simply getting stronger; as you’ve said, it’s our single most precious training commodity.

5. Keep learning!

I’m not going to harp too much on this one; simply put, you need to always be expanding your horizons and looking to new places for answers. There’s a plethora of training knowledge out there, and what you don’t know can come back to haunt you. I believe it was Ghandi who said, “Live like today was your last, but learn like you will live forever.” That’s pretty solid advice in my book (and hopefully the last quote I’ll throw in!)

Eric Cressey

For more information on Mike Robertson check out his blog and his website.
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The Experienced and Inexperienced

You certainly are known for your ability to get athletes stronger. What type of training do you use for adolescent athletes… let me narrow that down (i) a 16 year old with no formal strength training experience (ii) a 16 year with a solid foundation and decent knowledge with exercise form
First and foremost, we have fun. It doesn’t matter how educated or passionate I am; I’m not doing my job if they aren’t having a blast coming in to train with me. With respect to the individual athletes, I’ll first roll through a health history and just run them through some basic dynamic flexibility movements to see where they stand. As we all know, there is a lot of variation in terms of physical maturity and training experience at these ages, and I can get a pretty good idea of what they need just by watching them move a bit. In your individual cases, much of my training would revolve around the following: In the unprepared athlete, I’d go right into several body weight drills – many of them isometric in nature – to teach efficiency. We often see an inability to differentiate between lumbar spine and pelvic motion, so I spend quite a bit of time emphasizing that the lumbar spine should be stable, and range of motion should come from the hips, thoracic spine, scapulae, and arms. Loading is the least of my concerns in the first few sessions; research has demonstrated that beginners can make progress on as little as 40% of 1RM, so why rush things with heavy loading that will compromise form? The lighter weights will allow them to groove technique and improve connective tissue health prior to the introduction of heavier loading. At the start, I’ll emphasize unilateral work; mobility; any corrective training that’s needed; classic stabilization movements (i.e. bridges); and learning the compound movements, deceleration/landing mechanics, and how to accelerate external loads (e.g. medicine balls, free weights). I’ll also make a point of mentioning that how you unrack and rerack weights is just as important as how you train; it drives me crazy to see a kid return a bar to the floor with a rounded back. In the athlete with a solid foundation, I’ll run through those same preliminary drills to verify that they are indeed “solid” and not just good compensators for dysfunction. Believe it or not, most “trained” athletes really aren’t that “trained” if you use efficiency as a marker of preparedness – even at the Division I, professional, and Olympic ranks; you can be a great athlete in spite of what you do and not necessarily because of what or how you do it. Assuming things are looking good, I’ll look to give them more external loading on all movements, as the fastest inroads to enhanced performance will always be through maximal strength in novice athletes. As they get more advanced, I’ll start to look more closely at whether they’re more static or spring dominant and incorporate more advanced reactive training movements. Single-leg movements are still of paramount importance, and we add in some controlled strongman-type training to keep things interesting and apply the efficiency in a less controlled environment. Likewise, as an athlete’s deceleration mechanics improve, we progress from strictly closed-loop movement training drills to a blend of open- and closed-loop (unpredictable) tasks. In both cases, variety is key; I feel that my job is to expose them to the richest proprioceptive environment possible in a safe context. With that said, however, I’m careful to avoid introducing too many different things; it’s important for young athletes to see quantifiable progress in some capacity. If you’re always changing what you do, you’ll never really show them where they stand relative to baseline. Eric Cressey A Great Athlete is an Efficient Athlete.
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Combining Resources: The Proper Warm-Up

I was trying to put together a couple warm ups from The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual as well as the Magnificent Mobility and Inside-Out DVD. It looks like The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual has a lot of exercises from Magnificent Mobility, although it also has foam rolling.

I'm thinking of adding a little foam rolling before the mobility/activition drills, but also was wondering about the upper body days. I know there is a lot of difference in the Inside-Out recommnedations and what is in The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual. Should I lean more towards what is the Inside-Out DVD, or try to make a combination of what is in The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual and the Inside-Out DVD?

Go with a combination. Here's a taster of what I'm using with one of my athletes this month, as an example.

Lower Body Days
Foam Rolling:
-IT Band/Tensor Fasciae Latae
-Hip Flexors
-Thoracic Extension
-Piriformis (tennis ball)
-Calves (tennis ball)
-Infraspinatus (tennis ball)
Seated 90/90 Static Stretch 15s/side
Warrior Lunge Static Stretch 15s/side
Birddog 8/side
Wall Ankle Mobilizations 8/side
Hip Corrections 8/side
Pull-Back Butt Kick 5/side
Cradle Walk 5/side
Walking Spidermans 5/side
Bowler Squats 8/side
Overhead Lunge Walks 5/side
Quadruped Extension-Rotation 8/side
Split-Stance Broomstick Pec Mobilizations 8/side

Upper Body Days
Foam Rolling:
-IT Band/Tensor Fasciae Latae
-Hip Flexors
-Thoracic Extension
-Piriformis (tennis ball)
-Calves (tennis ball)
-Infraspinatus (tennis ball)
Seated 90/90 Static Stretch 15s/side
Warrior Lunge Static Stretch 15s/side
Supine Bridge 1x12
X-band Walk 12/side
Windmills 10/side
Multiplanar Hamstrings Mobilizations 5/5/side
Reverse Lunge with Posterolateral Reach 5/side
Squat-to-Stand w/Diagonal Reach 5/side
Levator Scapulae/Upper Trap Stretch 15s/side
Side-Lying Internal-External Rotations 8/side
Scap Pushup 1x15
Scapular Wall Slides 1x12

All Warm-Ups Barefooted

Eric Cressey

Why Magnificent Mobility:

The principle problem with pure flexibility is that it does not imply stability nor readiness for dynamic tasks. We need to have mobile-stability at all our joints; there’s really no use in being able to attain a given range of motion if you can’t stabilize yourself in that position. Excessive passive flexibility without mobility (or dynamic flexibility, as it’s been called) will actually increase the risk of injury! Amazingly, it’s not uncommon at all to see individuals with circus-like passive flexibility fail miserably on dynamic tasks. Don't fall behind.
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Nike Shox and High Heels

You've mentioned to me in the past the issues with the ever popular Nike Shox training shoe as well as high heels in women. What's are the potential problems?

When you elevate the heels chronically - via certain sneakers, high-heels, or any other footwear - you lose range of motion in dorsiflexion (think toe-to-shin range of motion). When you lack mobility at a joint, your body tries to compensate by looking anywhere it can to find range of motion. In the case of restricted ankle mobility, you turn the foot outward and internally rotate your lower and upper legs to make up for the deficit. This occurs as torque is "converted" through subtalar joint pronation.

As the leg rotates inward (think of the upper leg swiveling in your hip joint socket), you lose range of motion in external rotation at your hip. This is one of several reasons why females have a tendency to let their knees fall inward when they squat, lunge, deadlift, etc. And, it can relate to anterior/lateral knee pain (think of the term patellofemoral pain ... you've got restriction on things pulling on the patella, and on the things controlling the femur ... it's no wonder that they're out of whack relative to one another). And, by tightening up at the ankle and the hip, you've taken a joint (knee) that should be stable (it's just a hinge) and made it mobile/unstable. You can also get problems at the hip and lower back because ...

Just as losing range of motion at the ankle messes with how your leg is aligned, losing range of motion at your hip - both in external rotation and hip extension - leads to extra range of motion at your lumbar spine (lower back). We want our lower back to be completely stable so that it can transfer force from our lower body to our upper body and vice versa; if you have a lot of range of motion at your lower back, you don't transfer force effectively, and the vertebrae themselves can get irritated. This can lead to bone problems (think stress fractures in gymnasts), nerve issues (vertebrae impinge on discs/nerve roots), or muscular troubles (basic strains).

So, the take-home message is that crappy ankle mobility - as caused by high-top shoes, excessive ankle taping, poor footwear (heel lifts) - can cause any of a number of problems further up the kinetic chain. Sure, we see plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinosis, and shin splints, but that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can happen.

How do we fix the problems? First, get out of the bad footwear and pick up a shoe that puts you closer in contact with the ground. Second, go barefoot more often (we do it for all our dynamic flexibility warm-ups and about 50% of the volume of our lifting sessions). Third, incorporate specific ankle (and hip) mobility drills - as featured in our Magnificent Mobility DVD.

Oh, I should mention that elevating the heels in women is also problematic simply because it shifts the weight so far forward. If we're dealing with a population that needs to increase recruitment of the glutes and hamstrings, why are we throwing more stress on the quads?

Eric Cressey

Don't Know the Drills? Grab the Magnificent Mobility DVD.
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Healthy Athletes are Better Athletes

Have you ever wondered why elite pitchers like Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens don’t pitch year-round? Simple. They need an off-season to address the imbalances their sports create, and correcting these issues requires a combination of time (rest) and appropriate weight training and targeted flexibility work.

Unfortunately, nowadays, many kids don’t usually get a true off-season. A Little Leaguer getting elbow pain from throwing year-round is no different than an adult with a desk job who gets carpel tunnel syndrome from typing too much. Truthfully, the Little Leaguer is worse off, as there is more force and velocity to each his movements and his body is still developing and vulnerable to injury.

Further, believe it or not, specializing in one sport too early on can actually impair a child’s development within that sport. According to Brian Grasso, founder and executive director of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA):

Sport coaches who require young athletes to participate in one sport for extended periods of time are actually shooting themselves in the foot with respect to future ability. To learn complex skills associated with baseball, for instance, a young athlete will be restricted to what they have been exposed to and can neurally call upon in terms of practical athletic intelligence. A young athlete who has been exposed to baseball only, likely will lack the athletic dexterity necessary to perform advanced skills in that sport.

Eric Cressey

Revolutionize the way you approach the most crucial training period this year.

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