Home Posts tagged "Hamstrings"

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/14/16

Here's some recommended strength and conditioning reading/viewing to get your Tuesday started off on the right foot:

How Neural Tension Influences Hamstrings Flexibility - This Mike Reinold video is an excerpt from our new resource, Functional Stability Training: Optimizing Movement. It's on sale for $30 off through the end of the week.

10 Lessons from 10 Years of Lifting - Part 1

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Why Physical Therapists are Movement System Experts? - I thought this was an excellent article from my good friend and colleague, Eric Schoenberg. I collaborate with Eric on a weekly basis with various rehab cases and he's an outstanding therapist and even better friend.

Top Tweet of the Week:

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Top Instagram Post of the Week: (this week's come from the @CresseySportsPerformance account):

 

Another exciting 1st Year Player Draft in the books. Odds are looking pretty good that we break into triple digits in '17. #cspfamily #mlbdraft

A photo posted by Cressey Sports Performance (@cresseysportsperformance) on

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So You Want to Start Sprinting?

While sprinting has been around since the dawn of man, only in the past few years has it really taken off as true fitness trend. In other words, it was either what we did to kill our dinner in prehistoric times, or it was a modern athletic competition. Only recently have we realized that doing sprint work for our interval training is a tremendously effective way to get/stay lean, enhance mobility, improve athleticism, and prepare ourselves for the demands that life throws our way.

Heading out to sprint full-tilt when you haven’t been doing any running work in recent months is, however, analogous to signing up for calculus when you haven’t brushed up on basic math of late. The main difference is that you can’t rip your hamstrings off your pelvis doing calculus!

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Sprint work requires tremendous mobility, good tissue quality, and adequate strength to tolerate significant ground reaction forces and a wide variety of joint angles. You don’t prepare for this with your “typical” gym workouts, so before I have some specific modifications in place that you’ll want to follow. To that end, below, I’ve provided you with seven tips you can apply to ease into sprint work so that you can get the benefits of it with less of the risk.

1. Do these foam rolling drills and four mobility exercises every day for a month.

These drills are like summer reading before a tough English class. You have to do them so that you can hit the ground running (pun intended).

2. Sprint uphill first.

People often get hurt when they overstride; they’ll pull the hamstrings on the front leg. Sprinting uphill doesn’t really allow you to overstride, though, and it’s also good because you go up with each step, but don’t come down quite as much. Ground reaction forces are much lower, so this is a great option for easing into top-speed sprinting. (great studies here and here, for those interested).

While it’s more ideal to do uphill sprinting outside, it is okay to do this on a treadmill. After all, you’re just trying to lose your spare tire or be a little better in beer league softball, not go to the Olympics.

I like to see a month of 2x/week uphill sprint work before folks start testing the waters on flat terrain.

3. Don’t sprint at 100% intensity right away.

Contrary to what you may have heard, you don’t have to run at 100% intensity to derive benefits from sprint work. In fact, a lot of the most elite sprinters in the world spend a considerable amount of time running at submaximal intensities, and they are still lean and fast.

The bulk of your sprint work should be in the 70-90% of top speed range. You might work up to some stuff in the 90-100% zone as you’re fully warmed up, but living in this top 10% all the time is a recipe for injury, especially if you’re over the age of 35-40 and degenerative changes are starting to kick in.

When you first start out, sprinting is new and exciting, and it's very easy to get overzealous and push the volume and frequency side of the equation just as you would the intensity side.  Don't do it.  For most folks, twice a week is a sufficient complement to a comprehensive strength training program, and the session shouldn't last for more than 30-45 minutes - most of which will be you resting between bouts of sprinting.  If you find that they're 90-120 minute sessions, you're either doing too much volume or not working hard enough.  The speed and quality of your work will fall off pretty quickly as you fatigue, so be careful about forcing things too quickly.  Beyond just injury prevention benefits, taking it slower on the progressions side of things allows you to test out your footwear of a few weeks to make sure that they're the right shoes for you.

5. Don't sprint on pavement.

I can't think of a more unforgiving surface than pavement, especially since it means that you're more likely to get hit by a car. Unfortunately, it's also the more easy accessible surface for most people. In an ideal world, I like to see folks sprint on grass, artificial turf, or a track surface. Broken glass and hot coals would also be preferable to pavement (for the record, that was a joke, people; don't be that schmuck who goes out to try it).

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6. Don't sprint through fatigue early on.

This is a "go by feel" kind of recommendation. On one hand, you have to sprint through some fatigue to get in the volume it takes to derive the training effects you want: namely, fat loss. However, we also have to appreciate that states of fatigue drive injury rates sky-high in the athletic world. With that trend in mind, I encourage people to run conservatively in the first few months of their sprint training programs; in other words, don't allow a lot of fatigue to accumulate. Instead, take a little extra time between sprints. Then, as your sprinting mechanics and fitness improves (and you've gotten rid of the initial soreness), you can push through some fatigue.

7. Generally speaking, sprint before your lower body strength training work, not after.

People often ask me when the best point in one's training split is to sprint.  As a general rule of thumb, I prefer to have people sprint before they do their lower body strength training sessions.  We might have athletes that will combine the two into one session (sprinting first, of course), but most fitness oriented sprinters would sprint the day or two prior to a lower body session.  A training schedule I like to use for many athletes and non-athletes alike is:

Mo: Lower Body Strength Training (with athletes, we may do some sprint work before this as well)
Tu: Upper Body Strength Training
We: Sprint Work
Th: Lower Body Strength Training
Fr: Upper Body Strength Training
Sa: Sprint Work
Su: Off

In this case, the intensive lower body work is consolidated into three 24-36-hour blocks (Mo, We-Th, Sa).

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Conversely, I've also met lifters who like to sprint at 70-80% effort the day after a lower body strength training session, as they feel like it helps with promoting recovery.

Closing Thoughts

As you can tell, while there are definitely some tried and true strategies for avoiding injury when you undertake a sprinting program, there are also some areas that are open to a bit of interpretation.  The value of incorporating sprinting into one's program is undeniable, though, so I'd encourage you to test the waters to see how it fits in with your strength and conditioning programs.  At the very least, it'll give you some variety and help get you outdoors for some fresh air.

If you're looking for ideas on how to incorporate sprinting in a comprehensive strength and conditioning program, I'd encourage you to check out my latest resource, The High Performance Handbook

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The Best of 2012: Strength and Conditioning Articles

With 2012 winding down, I’ll be dedicating this week to the best content of the year, based on traffic volume at EricCressey.com. I’ll kick it off today with my most popular articles from the past year.

1. 5 Reasons You Have Tight Hamstrings - This article received about 24,000 more views than the next most popular post of the year.  I guess a lot of people have tight hamstrings!

2. Are Pull-ups THAT Essential? - People love controversy, and when you call into question the risk/reward of one of the most sacred strength training exercises of all time, that's exactly what you get! 

3. The Superset Survival Guide - This article, which featured my "Top 10 Supersets," got a ton of Facebook shares and Retweets.

4. Everything You Need to Know About the Front Squat - This article was published less than a month ago, but already shot up to the top five, which isn't easy to do!

5. 6 Tips for Adjusting to Exercise in the Morning - Early morning exercise might not be your cup of tea, but with some of these tips, it very well could be in 2013!

This wraps up my top 5 posts of 2012, but I’ll be back soon with more “Best of” highlights from 2012. Next up, I’ll list my top videos of the year.

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5 Reasons You Have Tight Hamstrings

There might not be a more obnoxious and stubborn athletic injury than the hamstrings strain.  When it is really bad, it can bother you when you're simply walking or sitting on it.  Then, when a hamstrings strain finally feels like it's getting better, you build up to near your top speed with sprinting - and it starts barking at you again.  In other words, a pulled hamstrings is like a crazy, unpredictable mother-in-law; just when you think you've finally won her over, she brings you back down to Earth and reminds you how much more she liked your wife's old boyfriend.

However, not all hamstrings pain cases are true strains; more commonly, they present as a feeling of "tight hamstrings."  If one is going to effective prevent this discomfort, rehabilitate it, or train around it, it's important to realize what is causing the hamstrings tightness in the first place.  Here are five reasons:

1. Protective Tension of the Hamstrings

This is readily apparent in someone who has a crazy anterior pelvic tilt, which puts a big stretch on the hamstrings, which posteriorly tilt the pelvis.  When someone is extremely anteriorly tilted, the hamstrings are constantly "on" to prevent someone from ending up with extension-based back pain, such as spondylolysis (vertebral fractures), spondylolisthesis (vertebral "slippage"), and lumbar erector tightness/strains.  This is a problem most commonly seen in females (greater anterior pelvic tilt than men) and athletes:

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Doing a lot of longer duration static stretching for the hamstrings in this population usually isn't a great idea, as you run the risk of making someone more unstable - particularly in the case of females, who have less rigid ligamentous restraints (more congenital laxity) to protect them.  To that end, our approach with these folks is to use the warm-ups to foam roll the area, then do some hamstrings mobilizations to transiently reduce stiffness in the hamstrings.

After this reduction in stiffness, we work to build stability in synergists to the hamstrings in posterior pelvic tilt.  In other words, there's a heavy emphasis on glute activation and anterior core recruitment both with a strength training program and postural reeducation for the other 23 hours of the day.

At the end of the training session, with the male athletes, we may do some shorter duration hamstrings stretching just to "dissipate" a little eccentric stress.  I like ten seconds in each of these three positions:


 

 

 

 

 

The thing to remember is that while you can do everything right with these athletes in training, what they do with their posture during the rest of their lives is of paramount importance.  If they continue to stand around in anterior tilt and don't help the new stiffness they've developed "stick," they'll continue to over-rely on their already tight hamstrings.

2. Neural Tension

Just because you feel hamstrings tightness doesn't mean that the hamstrings are actually the source of the problem.  In fact, it's not uncommon at all for those with lumbar disc issues to present with radicular pain, tightness, or numbness/tingling into the legs - especially the hamstrings.  The symptoms may also come from nerve entrapment (most commonly the sciatic nerve) on soft tissue structures further down the chain.  Just aggressively stretching the hamstrings can actually make these symptoms worse, so it's important to see a medical professional to rule out causes further up with the appropriate clinical exams, such as the slump test.

3. Truly Tight Hamstrings

In order for hamstrings to really be short, one would have to spend a lot of time with the knee flexed and hip extended - so just imagine the position you're in at the top of a standing leg curl.  That's a hard pose to hold for an extended period of time, much less do so on a regular basis.

That said, some folks do get somewhat close to that on a daily basis in the sitting position, and are therefore the most likely to really have "tight hamstrings." They have to be in posterior pelvic tilt and knee flexion for a considerable chunk of the day - and even then, it's still pretty tough to be truly short, as they are still in hip flexion.

These folks usually can't distinguish hip flexion from lumbar flexion, so if you do a standing hip flexion assessment, rather than maintain the neutral spine we see in this photo, they'll go into lumbar flexion (butt will "tuck under").

The same trend will usually be noticeable with any kind of squat unless they have a tremendous amount of core stiffness to overcome the posterior hip stiffness that's present.  If you test these folks on an straight leg raise, it isn't pretty, as the pelvis is already posteriorly tilted.  In a pelvis that starts in "neutral" on a straight leg raise, roughly the first 1/3 of movement that you see comes from posterior tilt of the pelvis before the femur ever starts to flex on the acetabulum of the pelvis.  These folks are usually already posteriorly tilt, so that 1/3 is already used up; you're really only measuring hip flexion and not hip flexion PLUS posterior pelvic tilt.  And, as you can imagine, if someone is truly short in the hamstrings, that straight leg raise isn't going to be pretty. Obviously, these folks usually have a terrible toe touch pattern as well.

This should also educate you on why you can't treat all hamstrings strains the same.  In the protective tension example earlier, we needed to work to regain stability to hold a position of a bit more posterior pelvic tilt.  We'd cue glute activation, and use exercises that draw folks back into posterior tilt (e.g., reverse crunches).  If you have someone has a pulled hamstrings because they are truly short from already being in posterior pelvic tilt, though, some of these cues and exercises would be contraindicated. You'd be feeding the dysfunction.

While manual therapy and stretching for the posterior hip is valuable, again, it must be followed by stabilization work at adjacent joints with the pelvis in a neutral position.  These folks can benefit from training hip flexion above 90 degrees as well, as it educates them on how to flex the hip without rounding the lumbar spine.  This is one reason why I think a lot of the chop and lift exercises we've learned from Gray Cook are so fantastic; they teach us anti-rotation and anti-extension stability in various positions of hip flexion while the pelvis is in neutral.  They make changes "stick" better.

4. Previous Hamstrings Strain

Not to be overlooked in this discussion is the simple fact that the single-best predictor of hamstrings strains is a previous hamstrings injury.  One you have an injury, that area may never be the same from a tissue density standpoint - whether it's the surrounding fascia or the muscle or tendon itself.  A previous injury can leave athletes feeling "tight" in the region, so regular manual therapy can certainly help in this regard.

Anecdotally, the athletes with the long-term problems seem to be the ones with the pulls up on the gluteal fold, right where the hamstrings tendons attach to the ischial tuberosity.  The area gets "gunked up"in a lot of athletes as it is because of all the tissues coming together and exerting force in a small area, but it's especially problematic in those who have a previous injury in the region.  Perhaps more problematic, though, is the fact that we sit on our proximal hamstrings attachments - and that isn't exactly good for blood flow and tissue regeneration.

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I haven't seen any research on it, but I have a feeling that if you looked at this region in a lot athletes with ultrasound (similar to this study with patellar tendons), you'd find a ton of people walking around with substantial degenerative changes that could be diagnosed as tendinosis even though they haven't actually hit a symptomatic threshold.  My guess is that it's even worse in the posterior hip region because a) we sit on it, b) the ischial tuberosity is a more "congested" area than the anterior knee), and c) the study I noted above used 14-18 year-old athletes, and degenerative problems will get worse as one gets older (meaning this study likely undercut the true prevalence across the entire population).

Very simply, an athlete with a previous hamstrings strain needs to stay on top of quality manual therapy on the area, and be cognizant of maintaining mobility and stability in the right places.  They have less wiggle room with which to work.

5. Acute Hamstrings Strain or Tendinosis

Of course, the fifth reason you hamstrings might be tight is because you might actually have a hamstrings injury!  It could be an actual hamstrings strain, or just a tendinosis (overuse issue where tissue loading exceeds tissue tolerance for loading).  There is no one perfect recommendation in this regard, as a tendinosis or grade 1 hamstrings strain is going to be much more tolerable than a grade 3 hamstrings strain where you have bruising all along the back of your thigh.  

In terms of maintaining a training effect with the less serious ones, here are a few suggestions:

a. When you are ready to deadlift, use trap bar deadlifts instead of conventional or sumo deadlift variations.  I explain a bit more about how the positioning of the center of gravity makes this more hamstrings friendly HERE.

b. Shorten up your stride on single-leg exercises.  This makes the movement slightly more quad dominant, but allows you to still get the benefits of controlling the frontal and transverse planes with appropriate glute and adductor recruitment at the hip.

c. Go with step-up and reverse sled dragging variations.  Eliminating the eccentric component can take a considerably amount of stress off the hamstrings, and both these exercises get the job done well.

d. If you're going to squat, start with front squats at the beginning, and reintegrate back squat and box squat variations later on, as they will be more hamstrings intensive.

e. Understand anatomy.  If you are in hip flexion and knee extension, you're going to really be stretching the hamstrings and likely irritating them in the process.  Select exercises that don't hit these painful end-ranges, and then gradually reintroduce more dramatic ranges of motion as the issues subside.

f. Do hill sprints before you do regular sprints.  Your stride is going to be a bit shorter with hill sprints, and that'll take a considerable amount of stress off the hamstrings at heel strike (pretty good research on uphill vs. downhill sprinting HERE, for those who are interested).  Just don't go out and run as hard as you can the first time out; propulsive forces are still quite high.

Of course, this just speaks to how to train around a pulled hamstrings; there is really a lot more to look at if you want to really understand why they occur and how to prevent or address them.  In my eyes, this post was necessarily "geeky," as it is important that we don't dumb down complex injuries to "just stretch it out."  This recommendation is analogous to a doctor just telling someone to take some NSAIDs for regular headaches; it doesn't get to the root of the problem, and it may actually make things worse.

For more information, I'd encourage you to check out the Functional Stability Training series. The entire package - and the individual components - are on sale for 20% off through tomorrow (Sunday) at midnight. The discount is automatically applied at checkout at www.FunctionalStability.com.

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Hip Pain In Athletes: Understanding Femoral Anterior Glide Syndrome

Hip pain - particularly of the anterior (front of the hip) variety - is a very common problem in the weight training population.

In her book, Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes, Shirley Sahrmann discusses Femoral Anterior Glide Syndrome in excellent detail.  And, while it may seem like an obscure diagnosis, it's actually a really common inefficiency we see in a weight training population.

In order to understand this syndrome, you have to appreciate the attachment points and functions of the hamstrings and gluteus maximus.  With the hamstrings, you'll notice that they attach to the ischial tuberosity of the pelvis (with the exception of the short head of the biceps femoris, which attaches on the femur), and then run down to a point inferior to (below) the knee.  In other words, they are a two-joint muscle group.  All of the hamstrings aid in knee flexion, and all but the short head of the biceps femoris also aid in hip extension.

Conversely, the glutes attach on the pelvis and the femur; they're a one-joint muscle - and this is why they can so directly impact hip health.

You see, when the hamstrings extend the hip (imagine the hip motion that happens when one comes out of the bottom of a squat), they do so in a "gross" fashion.  In other words, the entire leg extends.  In the process, there is little control over the movement of the femoral head ("ball" in the "ball-and-socket" hip joint) - and it tends to migrate forward during hip extension, giving you a femoral anterior glide syndrome.  In the process, it can irritate the anterior joint capsule, and this irritation can give a sensation of tightness in the front of the hip.

Fortunately, the glutes can help prevent the problem.  Thanks to their point of attachment on the superior aspect of the femur (closer to the hip), they have more direct control over the femur as it extends on the hip.  As a result, they can posteriorly pull the femoral head during hip extension.  So, in an ideal world, you get effective co-contraction of the hamstrings and glutes as one extends the hip; they are a system of checks and balances on one another.  If you use the hamstrings too much in hip extension, you're just waiting to develop not only femoral anterior glide syndrome, but also hamstrings and adductor magnus (groin) strains and extension-based back pain.

As an aside, this hamstrings/glutes relationship is somewhat analogous to what you see at the shoulder with the subscapularis posteriorly pulling the humeral head as the infraspinatus and teres minor allow it to drift forward.  That's another newsletter altogether, though!

Once the femoral anterior glide issue is in place, the first course of action is to stop aggressively stretching the hip flexors.  While the issue gives a sensation of hip flexor "tightness," in reality, stretching the area only exacerbates the anterior hip pain.  A better bet is to just ditch the stretching for a few days, and instead incorporate extra glute activation work.  Eventually, though, one can reintegrate both static and dynamic hip flexor stretches.

Just as importantly, it's important to identify the causes.  We'll see this issue in runners who have no glute function, but more commonly, I'll see it in a weight training population that doesn't understand how to complete hip extension.  Here's what a hamstrings-dominant hip extension pattern would look like with squatting.

The final portion of hip extension is when the glutes are most active, so it's important to "pop the hips through" at lockout of deadlifts, squats, pull-throughs, and other exercises like these.  In the same squat example, it's really just as simple as standing tall:

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hip issues in athletes, but it's definitely something we see quite a bit. If you'd like to learn more, I'd highly recommend you check out our Functional Stability Training series, particularly the Lower Body and Optimizing Movement editions. They're on sale for 25% off through tonight (Cyber Monday) at midnight.

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The Most Important Thing for Rookie Trainers

Earlier this week, we had a gentleman stop by our facility to observe Tony, Brian, and I in action.  He is new to the industry - less than one year under his belt, in fact - but has a solid roster of clients of all ages and ability levels.  I give the guy a ton of credit for coming all the way to MA from across the country to get better at what he does; I wish more people were passionate enough about helping their clients to do so. Anyway, while he had quite a few questions, he asked me flat-out what I think the most important thing to do is for an up-and-coming personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach.  My answer was simple: learn functional anatomy.  Very simply, everything you do with a client or athlete comes down to understanding how their body is built.  And, if you know how the body is built (statically), you can start to understand how it functions (or malfunctions) dynamically.  This is a skip that, in my opinion, far too many trainers and coaches overlook.  It may be boring to memorize all this stuff, but it's incredibly important. I mean, honestly, have you ever met a mechanic who didn't know what a radiator did or where it was located?  A car's anatomy is probably just as expansive as the human body, but you don't see mechanics fixing car troubles before they learn where all the parts are - or what they're supposed to do.  Sadly, I think that if I asked every trainer on the planet what a coracobrachialis was, only half could even tell me where it's located, and even fewer would be able to relate its functions. At risk of sounding overconfident, this is one reason why I'm so proud of our Building the Efficient Athlete DVD Set.  In my experience, there isn't a single product out there that delves into functional anatomy in as detailed a fashion as Mike Robertson and I do, and there certainly isn't anything that relates that anatomy to what you see when your clients and athletes perform exercises, encounter injuries, or struggle to grasp some new technique.

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Here's a little sample of what you can find on the first two (of eight) DVDs in the set: DVD #1: Introduction
  • Why learn functional anatomy?
  • What resources do the BEST use to improve their skills?
  • What resources will absolutely make you regress as a trainer, coach or athlete, and how do you avoid them?
  • How will improved posture not only keep you healthy, but also improve your performance?
  • How can you use the Law of Repetitive Motion to rapidly elicit changes in posture?
DVD #2: Lower Body, Core and Upper Body Functional Anatomy
  • Are the hip flexors tight? If so, which one(s)? We show you specific tests to figure out exactly which areas are short or stiff.
  • Why are well functioning glutes an absolute necessity if optimal performance is your goal? How can they help us to avoid hamstring pulls, groin strains, and lower back pain!
  • How is it that we've misunderstood the role of various core muscles for so long? And, how can we modify our training to "undo" the damage that's been done?
  • How can the pectoralis major and subscapularis be both antagonists and synergists, and what are the implications on health and performance?
  • Have we been missing the boat on how we view rhomboids?
  • Why doesn't anyone think about pectoralis minor?
Again, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  There is a whole lot more on the other six DVDs, including live static and dynamic assessments, programming strategies, and loads of troubleshooting for common resistance training exercises. For more information, check out Building the Efficient Athlete.
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Foam Rollers and Football

Q: Hey Eric, I've been a member of T-Nation for about three years now. I really enjoy your articles. And one caught my attention abouta year ago. The foam roller article. I bought one, asked my PT about it and he didnt know much so i kind of threw it aside. Well to make a long story short. I play high school football, its my senior year. I've been playing and training for seven years now. My ultimate goal of course is to get a scholarship to play some college ball. However the day before practice I pulled my hamstring doing sprints down the beach. I've been going to PT and seen about three doctors. Its not that serious of a pull id say a mild grade 2. I've been feeling alot of pressure from my coaches to get back on the field and have tried to comeback twice. Whenever i put any pressure on the thing it just tighens right up. But running on it seems to be fine. There is a pretty good size knot on the lower part of my left hamstring right above the back of the knee. So tonight i read your article again and busted out the foam roller. After the first 10 minutes of the hamstring it felt 100 times better. I've done it three times in the past three hours. I got a big game on friday that I have to play in and I'm doing as much as i possibly can to get this thing healthy. I know you guys dont diagnos over the internet or anything like that i just wanted to tell you thank you for the info on the foam roller. I'm gonna use this thing everyday before and after practice/games and hopefully i can get back to 100% as soon as possible. Thanks again for all the great info!
A: I'm glad to hear that the roller worked out for you. Just remember that work you do with the roller is just treating the symptoms (scar tissue). You have to get to the bottom of why your hamstrings are so knotted up if you want to fix the problem rather than just take one step forward and one step back. In most cases, the hamstrings get locked up because they're overactive - because the glutes aren't doing their job as hip extensors. It's one reason why after hamstrings go, you also see groin pulls (adductor magnus is a synergist to the glutes in hip extension) and piriformis strains (piriformis is a synergist in lateral rotation). Check out our Magnificent Mobility DVD; it would be a good investment. It's worked for a lot of guys w/their hamstrings problems, and provided that the right exercises are selected, you should see some great improvements. Eric Cressey
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Talking Shop: John Pallof

Eric Cressey: Randomly throw some idea out there that will really make our readers say “Oh, crap, that really makes sense!” John Pallof: 1. A muscle that often gets overlooked with shoulder impingement type problems – like the plain looking girl at the dance – the serratus anterior. It’s very important for a few reasons: helps rotate and protract the scapula/acromion up and out of the way of the humeral head, and is also important for force coupling with the rhomboids/lower and middle trapezius. 2. Many “hamstrings pulls” – especially chronic ones – are actually symptoms of a mild nerve irritation – neural tension dysfunction. Just like a brake cable on a bike, your nerves need to glide through the tissue they travel through. If they get hung up, they will become symptomatic to varying degrees. Picture a brake cable on a bicycle – the metal cable glides through the plastic casing. Your nerves need to be able to glide through the structures and tissues they travel through – as much as 7 to 10 mm in some areas! 3. A topic of contention – the elephant in the room – the psoas. While there are many theories out there, I believe the psoas acts along with the TVA/multifidus/internal oblique as a local/segmental stabilizer of the spine. Think about the origins on the anterior surface of the transverse processes of the lumbar spine. Why the hell would it attach so intricately if all it did was flex the hip? The psoas atrophies in a fashion similar to the multifidus with back pain. The multifidus and the psoas form a force couple/agonist-antagonist relationship, giving stability of one vertebrae on the other.
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Boxers or Briefs

Q: I am a strongman competitor and am thinking about incorporating squat briefs into my training. I talked to a powerlifter buddy of mine and he said he would recommend briefs for max effort squats and deadlifts to keep the hips healthy. What do you think about this?
A: Well, my first observation is that you’re not going to be using the briefs in competition, are you? Specificity is more important than people think; what’s specific for a powerlifter won’t necessarily be specific for a strongman. However, given the nature of the training you’ll be doing (powerlifting-influenced), I wouldn’t rule the briefs out right away. It depends on whether you're regularly box squatting and/or squatting with a wide stance. If you are, I'd say that they're a good investment, and you could use them 1-2 weeks out of the month. I would, however, caution against using them as a crutch against poor lifting technique. There are a lot of guys who just throw on briefs because their hips hurt, not realizing that it isn't the specific exercise that is the problem; it's the performance of that exercise that gives them trouble. For example, hamstrings dominant hip extension/posterior pelvic tilt allows the femoral head to track too far anteriorly and can cause anterior hip pain. If the glutes are activated appropriately, they reposition the head of the femur so that this isn't a problem. Unfortunately, a good 80% of the population doesn't have any idea how to use their glutes for anything except a seat cushion. Eric Cressey Efficient Athletes will always be Better Athletes
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