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Lifestyle Training

Movement Tip: Adductor Stretches

The hip adductors (groin muscles) are notoriously tight for many people. With the daily routines that most of us have, we constantly have these muscles in their shortened positions, rarely engaging them with any purpose to keep them stimulated and healthy. For the most part our adductors perform the functions of squeezing our legs together and assisting with some hip flexion, with the adductor magnus also assisting in hip extension. These days our most common position tends to be seated with legs together or often crossed, placing these muscles in their shortest positions. We spend hours like this, so it’s no wonder these tissues start to adapt and become short and lazy. They attach to the pelvis and femur (thigh bone) apart from the gracilis crossing the knee and attaching to the tibia (shin bone). Due to their attachment points they play an often-overlooked roll in pelvic stability and angle. The stability and angle of the pelvis has large implications throughout the rest of the body, low back discomfort being at the top of the list. So, it’s important to keep these muscles pliable and healthy.

Stretching is one option that’s an easy way to help stimulate these muscles. A couple of options for you to try are the Frog Stretch which targets the short adductors that only cross the hip joint, and the Goalie stretch that targets the long adductors that also cross the knee joint.

As always please consult a health professional before attempting new exercises, as the following suggestions may or may not be appropriate for you.

For these stretches there are no specific time rules of how long to hold positions. You are moving through different ranges of each stretch and if you feel more tension in a certain range, you can spend a little extra time there. The goal is to feel some tension release and balance throughout the different ranges and from side to side.

Dynamic Frog Stretch

Dynamic Goalie Stretch

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Training

Movement Tip: Band Quadruped Leg Extension w/Lateral Challenge

Today’s movement prep exercise is awesome for not only activating the muscles surrounding the hips, but also the entire core system! The lateral resistance challenge from the band makes this a lot like a Palloff Press but with your leg instead of arms. Here is how to do it:

-Focus on your frame. While the movement and challenge from the band is with your leg, the stability of your frame is where the magic is happening. Although you will feel the band tensioning the leg you extend, the muscles of the core and stabilizing hip need to anchor and work equally as hard if not harder to provide the proper base of support for that extending leg to leverage off of and perform the motion.

-To create a strong frame your points of contact with the ground must be firm. Spread your fingers apart providing greater surface area for a larger base of support and use those fingers to grip into the ground as well. Activating those intrinsic hand muscles also generates more wrist support and space in the joints for pain free wrists! The knee that you will be posting on is equally important. Make sure it is comfortable and well grounded.

-Anchor a large loop band to a stable post about knee height when standing. Loop the free end around the mid-foot of the leg that you will be extending.

-Facing sideways to the anchor point at a distance where band tension is appropriate for you, start on hands & knees with shoulders stacked over hands & hips stacked over knees with neutral spine. Think of being long from the crown of your head down to your tail bone and scooping your shoulder blades and filling up your mid-back to create proper stability through your shoulders.

-With an engaged cinched core keeping hips and shoulders square with one another and the ground, slowly extend the leg with the band around it while resisting the lateral tension keeping it inline with body. Move with purpose and think of placing your leg where it needs to be.

-Extend the leg so that it is aligned with your torso height and hip. Hold for the specified time before slowly returning to start position and repeating.

-Complete a full set with your weaker side first before switching.

My preferred variables for this movement are 1-3 sets, 3-6 reps/side with 5-10 second holds at the end range. Enjoy!

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Perspectives Training

2 Key Points for a Solid Push-Up

I could rant on about a few things when it comes to the push-up, but I’ll choose two key points that I believe to have the greatest overall impact.

 

Core Stability – Everyone knows they need to “strengthen their core,” but few do.  This is by far where I see the biggest breakdown in push-up form and the cascade effect of a weak core will result in poor biomechanics everywhere else.  You shoulder hurts when you do a push-up?  It’s probably because your core wasn’t strong enough to support the variation you were attempting.  Work on core strength and stability first and choose a push-up regression that allows you to promote proper engagement and sequencing of your core at a difficulty level that you are actually capable of.

 

Points of Contact – I find this to be one of the most overlooked areas with any exercise.  Your points of contact are arguably the most import aspect of any exercise.  They anchor you to the external object that you are leveraging off of and transferring force through.  If you do not have solid contact your are giving away leverage and therefore strength.

 

With the push-up the main contact points are your hands.  If performing a push-up on the floor, spread those fingers apart and create as large a surface area.  The larger your contact surface is on your base of support, the greater your stability, feedback loop and force transfer will be, giving you more strength.  Whether you are gripping a bar or using the floor, use the muscles in your hands!  You need to have an active base.  Your wrists hurt when you do a push-up?  There’s a good chance you’re not using the muscles in your hands and wrists that provide support and create small space cushions around those joints.  Actively squeeze into the ground with those fingers and hands, or if on a bar, crush it.  Not only will this help protect your joints, the radiation effect of engaging those muscles will increase your overall strength in the movement.

Make sure your feet are well anchored as well.  They are another contact point and your body will leverage from them as well.

 

My favorite push-up regression is the incline push-up.  The incline can be adjusted to any level to make the movement achievable for all with out shortening levers such as with a bent knee push-up.  This promotes learning to engage your body and move it as an entire unit, maximizing the safety and effectiveness of the movement.

 

How to perform the push-up:

  • Whether on an incline, decline or the floor, start in a front support (straight arm plank) position on toes, with hands slightly wider than shoulder width and inline with shoulders.
  • Fingers should be spread apart to create more surface area while actively engaging hand and forearm muscles.
  • Head shoulders and hips should be in a neutral aligned position squared up with one another. Picture as steel rod going through your body from head to toe. Squeeze thighs, glutes and abdominals thinking of holding in your poo and pee.
  • Fill-up mid-back by driving hands through the floor, scooping your shoulder blades and slightly corkscrewing them into the ground by thinking of turning your hands out.
  • Initiate movement by thinking of actively pulling your torso toward the ground allowing elbows to bend. Head, shoulders and hips must stay aligned and all move together as one unit.
  • Lower until chest touches the ground or object you are on.
  • Drive hands through the ground maintaining tight body position returning to start.
  • If you cannot get your chest down to your target object, you are performing a variation that is too difficult for your current level. Squash your ego and regress the movement so that you can perform it properly and then as you get stronger, slowly increase the difficulty.

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Perspectives Training Uncategorized

Movement Tip: Isometric Low Range Squat

Isometrics can be a great way to strengthen weaknesses throughout a range of motion in a movement.

In this example I’m using an assisted low range isometric squat, but you can take the principle and apply it to anything.  Use that pause to connect with your muscles and feel what’s working, what’s not, what should be.  Take the time while in that pause to figure it out and get everything responding the way it should be and then groove it proper.  You’re only as strong as your weakest link, so find it and strengthen it.

I’ll typically start people between 2-3 sets of 3-6 reps with 5-6 second pauses per rep.  I like this for slowing down mechanics and working on grooving proper patterns.

I’ve found this exercise to be an excellent way to get people comfortable with the bottom position of a squat. (Note:  Make sure the range of motion is there first.)

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Lifestyle Training

Movement Tip: The Banana Stretch

Most of us are one-side dominant in our daily activities.  We typically open doors, carry groceries, get in and out of vehicles more frequently on one side than the other.  Over time these unconscious movements add up and create imbalances in our body which can sometimes lead to insidious aches pains or injuries.  One of my favorite stretches that can both expose imbalances from left to right and help restore some balance is the Banana Stretch.  Here’s a quick video tutorial! Hope you enjoy!

The Banana Stretch can also be performed in a door frame.
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Lifestyle Perspectives Training Uncategorized

Tips for Healthy hips!

Our hips play a huge role in our mobility.  They are at the center of where all the action takes place.  Just about every way we move involves the hip joint in some capacity, whether it be direct or indirect when we initiate movement, forces travel through the area.  It’s needless to say that keeping them healthy will have a huge impact in our overall well being and quality of life.

So, how do we keep them healthy you ask?  With 21 muscles crossing this incredible piece of architecture you might think that the answer is going to be complex.  Many experts will give you numerous stretches and exercises to take to task however the most important thing to do is keep them greased by keeping them moving regularly through all their movement ranges.  This is something that should be done daily however most of us have set patterns throughout our day that have us using our hips in a very limited capacity and so they become limited to that.

There are 6 primary ranges of motion that the hip joint provides for us:

Flexion – when the thigh bone moves forward ahead of the hip.

Extension – when the thigh bones moves backward behind the hip.

Abduction – when the thigh bone moves out to the side of the hip.

Adduction – when the thigh bones moves across our mid-line.

External Rotation – when the thigh bone rotates so that the knee points out away from the body.

Internal Rotation – when the thigh bone rotates so that the knee points in toward the body.

Do you move your hips through all these ranges in a deliberate manner daily?  Chances are that you don’t and by limiting the range of motion and freedom of your hips the cascade effect of compensatory patterns and the insidious onset of pain occurs.

To help mitigate this terrible outcome, I’m going to provide you with one simple dance that takes just seconds to perform to keep those hips greased and mobile daily.  Whether you’re young, old or currently experience some form of discomfort, this little jig has got you covered.  I have to give full credit to Kevin Darby, strength coach/educator extraordinaire and the authority in Canada for Fascial Stretch Therapy, as I picked this up from his playbook.

You can read this description, but the video provides a clear and easy visual as well as instructions.  While my mother is from South America, you’ll see that I clearly didn’t inherit those well greased dance hips often associated with South American populations.  Enjoy!

The Dance:

Step 1:  Take one foot and plant it to the ground.  Remember, plants don’t move so this foot will stay where it is for the whole dance as we maneuver around it.

Step 2: Take your other foot and step forward. (Planted foot hip is now in extension)

Step 3: Take that same foot and step back. (Planted foot hip is now in flexion)

Step 4: Now take a step across your planted foot to the side. (Planted foot hip is now in adduction)

Step 5: Step over to the other side. (Planted foot hip is now in abduction)

Step 6: Step back over to the other side crossing that planted foot and facing your whole body that way. (Planted foot hip is now in internal rotation)

Step 7: Now step back over to the other side again and rotate your whole body to face that direction without moving that planted foot.  (Planted foot hip is now in external rotation)

Can you see how we’ve just covered all of the primary ranges of motion for our hip?  It’s genius!  You can repeat these steps and each time you go through them as your hip frees up, you can take larger and deeper steps increasing the range of motion.

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Perspectives Training Uncategorized

Avoiding Knee Pain During Hill Training

We have an annual hill climb challenge at Active Life Condition called the Grind.  It’s about a 2.2km trail that ascends 237m up Blue Mountain in Collingwood, Ontario.  With this challenge seems to come a sudden increase in the amount of hill climb training volume and in the past, this has led to the surfacing of knee aches and pains.  I wanted to highlight an often-overlooked weakness that can contribute to knee pain to help mitigate these issues.

Often the knee itself isn’t the initial problem but becomes the primary concern when other structures in the body aren’t functioning optimally.  Hips and ankles are the two most common areas that directly effect the health of your knee.  When we look at the biomechanics of a hill climb, due to the incline and increased forward angle of the torso, the demand placed through the hips differs from walking or running on a flat surface.  The force that is driven through the ankle and foot also changes dramatically due to these angles and combining this with the uneven ground surface of a trail, the demand for ankle and foot mobility intensifies as well.  Having the stability and awareness to maintain the proper alignment to channel these forces through your body in the safest most efficient manner is crucial, and what we often see is the poor knee having to take up the slack being sandwiched between rigid or unstable hips and ankles.

The glutes get a lot of attention when it comes to hills or stairs, but I find the hip flexors tend to be a little more overlooked.  With an incline they are required to move the thigh higher into a range of motion often not used and generally weaker.  This leaves them prone to quicker fatigue and compensatory patterns occurring to achieve the hip flexion movement.  The videos below lend an explanation as well as an exercise tip to help create strength within this range.  Remember, this is just one of many things that could be occurring, it’s important look at the big picture, and take everything into consideration.  Enjoy!

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Perspectives Training Uncategorized

Movement tip: Isometric Straight Leg Raise Adduction

In the past I’ve mentioned how I’ve felt that the hip adductors seemed to have been a little neglected with the glute focus that’s been so prevalent in the past few years.  I’m happy to see a lot of higher profile “guru’s” starting to bring them back into the fold again due to their importance in core, pelvic and knee stability.

If we look at their functional anatomy we can see that they play a huge role in core and pelvic stability.  In my experience I’ve found that many patients with deep core dysfunction also have dysfunction with their hip adductors or vice versa.  If you follow the deep front net of Thomas Myers Anatomy Trains, this makes sense as you can see how these structures are interwoven with one another.

In my practice I’ve found a lot of people unable to coordinate this sling which leaves them very vulnerable to back strains or more serious injuries.  In working with a soccer team over the winter months (who won a tournament in Italy in the Spring.  So proud of them!), my colleague and I noticed many of them were giving up a lot of power due to this instability.  This movement prep exercise was discovered to try and help them connect and strengthen this line.  I’ve found it to be quite effective with most populations.  It requires the deep core and hip adductors to work together creating that link.  Give it a try!

Isometric Supine Straight Leg Raise Adduction

  • Attach a large O-band to a secure anchor about knee to mid-thigh height.
  • Lie on your back with body parallel to anchor placing feet inline with the anchor point.
  • Position yourself away from the anchor point at a distance that will provide a challenging tension for you.
  • Loop the O-band around the mid-foot portion of your inside leg.
  • With the band under tension, clamp your body into the ground maintaining a neutral spine.
  • Use your hamstrings and glutes of the outside leg to squeeze into the ground and anchor your sacrum and hips keeping them square with shoulders throughout.  Lock down this position.
  • Ensure that rib cage does not rotate or glide laterally out of alignment with hips.  These are common errors.
  • Start movement by raising inside leg up to about 30-45 degree angle and squeeze in toward mid line of body keeping leg straight with knee and toes point up toward ceiling. Hold contraction for specified time.
  • Slowly release but do not let leg drop before repeating next repetition.

Suggested variables: 

2-3 sets, 4-6 reps of 5-10 second holds per side.

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Training Uncategorized

Movement Tip: Half-kneeling palloff press

It’s well known how important core stability is, and while static exercises like planks are a great place to start and learn how to feel and engage your core for stability, you’ll need to advance and be able to maintain stability with weight and or force transfer.  I’ve found that most people are good with sagittal plane stability (resisting a forward or back bend), but poor with coronal (side to side) and transverse (rotational) stability.  The latter two are especially important for all populations as something as simple as getting in and out of your car requires the awareness and stability of all planes.

The Palloff Press is an excellent movement choice that incorporates stability work in all planes, with focus on the transverse and coronal while adding some force transfer through the press.  I like starting with the half-kneeling variation to promote the locking in of good pelvic stability, and for people with tight hip flexors and quads, you get to work in a nice open hip position on the knee down side.  I’ll initially use an isometric hold at the top of the extended range to make sure that people are able to feel and adapt appropriately to the force transfer.

This is a fantastic movement to include in your movement prep. or warm-up exercises.

See the video below for a full demonstration and explanation.

Here’s what it looks like:

Anchor a Large O-Band or resistance band to a stable object at about shoulder height when you are kneeling.

Face 90 degrees away from the anchor so that your torso is perpendicular to it. Holding the band with inside hand first and overlapping with the outside, center hands over solar plexus (mid-torso) and move away from the anchor so that there is resistance on the band. (Distance will depend on your current level of comfort and strength.)

Assume a half-kneeling position with inside knee down on the ground inline with hips, shoulders and head. Outside leg should be forward and flexed 90 degrees at hip and knee with foot maintaining full contact on ground.  Ensure pelvis is level and lock it in by contracting glutes, hamstrings and core.

From this position slowly press hands forward straight away from torso fully straightening arms and maintaining shoulder height.

Keep hips and shoulders square with one another and resist the torsion of the band. Hold arms extended position for specified time and then slowly bring hands back toward torso.

Remember to breathe throughout.

Complete full set with weaker side first before switching.

Recommended variables to start with:

2-3 sets, 4-8 reps per side, 3-5 second holds in extended position.

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Lifestyle Perspectives Training

How Poor Posture Creates Tight Calves

By Gavin Buehler, RMT

Disclaimer:  Please consult your healthcare provider before engaging in any of the activities or suggestions that are highlighted in this article/video.

An issue that’s becoming more prevalent in my practice is lack of ankle mobility, particularly with dorsi flexion (foot flexes up toward shin).  I’ll hear comments about how calves always feel tight even though the individual is always stretching them out.  While the calves feel like they have an issue, the problem might stem from somewhere else.   In a case where I hear comments such as above, looking at the body globally and assessing postural alignment can help find the source.

Two fairly common postural patterns that are just about guaranteed to produce limited ankle mobility as well as many other problems that I won’t dig into in this article are “sway back” and “hyper lordosis.”  In both cases a dysfunction through the core triggers compensatory patterns in order for the body to keep balanced.

Sway Back Posture

Sway Back – In the case of the sway back posture the pelvis shifts forward off the plumb line usually presenting with a posterior pelvic tilt and flattening of the lower back.  There are many possible reasons for this that may include weakness in the transversus abdominis (TVA), imbalanced internal and external obliques, glute weakness, poor sequencing etc.  But it’s the lack of support through the core that displaces the weight creating an “S” like posture when viewed from the side.  With the pelvis shifting forward, the upper torso needs to shift back making the head shift forward.  In the lower body knees will usually lock out in hyper extension and due to the angle that the weight is being driven through the tibia, a constant posterior glide at the talocrural joint (ankle) stresses the Achilles tendon.

Hyper Lordosis Posture

Hyper Lordosis – With hyper lordosis a slightly different “S” like pattern forms as the pelvis dumps forward in an anterior tilt which tends to create a flatter upper back and exaggerates the arch in the low back shifting the torso forward off the plumb line.  The weight displacement of the upper body causes the lower body to compensate by pushing the pelvis backward as well as the knees in a lockout position.  As with the “Sway Back” posture, this places the tibia at an unfavorable angle to bear load through the ankle joint.

There are a number of other issues that are also formed with these postures, but since this article is about tight calves, I’m just going to highlight how they are affected.  In both the sway back and hyper lordosis cases, these postures produce a constant stress on the calves through both the knee joint as well as the ankle joint.  The calves are in a lengthened state crossing the knee and working hard to fight hyper extension and stabilize the joint.  Through the ankle, because of the way the weight is being distributed through the tibia (lower leg) and the angle that it is forced to meet the talus (foot bone), they’re again stretched and working hard to combat the posterior glide and stabilize.  The body’s nervous system will perceive these areas as being unstable causing the calf muscles to brace for stability making them tight.  No amount of stretching will remedy this type of tension.  In order for mobility to take place in any joint, there needs to be stability for your nervous system to allow the movement.  

To address the constant tension through the calves, postural improvement is needed first to place the load of the body in an optimal position where the joints are stable.  Improving the function of your core will generate the greatest success in these situations.

In this video I explain the compensatory patterns and offer a simple tool to help improve your posture.