Thursday, September 22, 2016

Shin Angle Shenanigans

Forward momentum during a lunge can cause the knee to go over the toes.  When this happens it increases stress on your knee cap.  For those suffering from knee pain, this is not ideal.  However, over time we need to re-introduce this movement because it is required for sport and other activities of daily living.

Reverse lunges are a great way to introduce unilateral movements.  Unilateral movements are great for rehab because of the stability requirements.  Typically when people sustain an injury they avoid loading through the affected limb and lose some stability.  Lunging can help increase your athletic potential, by helping you be stable to cross someone up like Iverson or be strong off the blocks during the 100-meter dash like Usain Bolt. For strength athletes, single leg loading promotes strength and size gains in the lower extremities and throughout your trunk.

The reverse lunge is a great way to initiate lunging into a rehab program.  This is due to the shin angle remaining vertical as well as not having the strong deceleration forces on the knee as seen in a forward lunge or traveling lunges.  Typically we start with the affected side being the front leg and progress to the affected side going back because of these deceleration forces.

A great way to progress into performing reverse lunges is to use the EDGE Suspension Trainer initially to assist the movement.  Focus should be on getting a feel for sitting back into the lunge engaging the hinge pattern for better posterior chain recruitment.  

A great progression from this movement in a single limb squat with your non-stance leg behind you.  This allows for some increased shin angle which will transfer to sport.  We like this vs a pistol squat because the non-stance leg is behind you vs in front of you mimicking sport better.

Because we love you so much here is another bonus progression of a reverse lunge for you athletes out there.

This movement requires more dorsiflexion but translates very well to the playing field.  The hip flexion at the end of the movement helps achieve full triple extension as well as mimicking the initial step when sprinting.  Hence the name "Sprinter Starts".

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Simple Exercise for Lower Body Health

A sprained ankle can take a good chunk off your athletic season away.  The truth is weak ankles can contribute to many structural as well as performance issues.

If the ankle has a poor ability to maintain a neutral position it may lead to a collapsing of the arch A.K.A Flat Feet.  When you lose the ability to maintain an arch you also fail to distribute force properly across your feet, inevitably creating a loss of force production.

This loss in efficiency, other than hindering you from finally throwing down a dunk, can also increase the chances for injury upon landing.

When there is a structural change in the ankles there is a ripple effect on the adjacent limbs.  This is called the kinetic chain.  As the foot rolls inward it internally rotates the leg collapsing the knee inward and tilting the pelvis.

This position has low structural integrity and when placed under external load, as with a barbell squat or during landing, can cause an issue at any of the previously mentioned joints.

How do you fix this?


When thinking about the kinetic chain one must think of it as a whole.  This is why multisegmental coordination is key when it comes to balance.  In this case, isolating individual muscles will not elicit the same results.

Shout out to Joel Seedman for this great exercise to work on balance.

Notice in this close-up how I struggle to keep control of my arch while passing the weight.

The weight pass, as we respectfully named it, is designed to work on single leg stability while shifting the load from one side of your body to the other.  When the weight is on the side of the stance leg, it will engage the muscles that pronate the foot and when it is on the opposite side you are training the muscles that supinate the foot.  The key element here is the shifting of weight and the ankle's adjustment to this dynamic external load which increases ankle stability.

When training unilaterally (on one leg) you automatically engage the core by working against trunk rotation and flexion, working the muscles that control the pelvis consequently improving spinal alignment.

Because the knee is mostly influenced by what's happening in the joints above and below it, improving ankle and hip control will help prevent the onset of knee pain as well.

Single leg stability is essential for proper ankle control.  Think about it.  When you run you are never on both feet at the same time.  So if you go for a run every morning add single leg stability exercises to the mix and reap the benefits!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall

Who doesn't love taking a quick glance at yourself in the mirror to check your pump after a nice set of bicep curls?

Mirrors are a great tool for physical therapists, personal trainers, powerlifters, or even the average weekend warrior. They can be very helpful when used to maintain or correct proper form and positioning during an exercise.

However, there are also times when mirrors can have unfavorable effects. Check out this video of a single leg deadlift being performed in front of a mirror.

The mirror encourages the individual to maintain constant eye contact with himself in the mirror throughout the entire movement. While approaching the bottom portion of the single leg deadlift exercise, the urge to maintain eye contact with the mirror causes excessive extension in both the neck and low back. This puts unnecessary added stress on the spine, and ultimately, turns a great exercise into a bad one!

Yes, coaching and cueing can definitely improve poorly executed exercises, but as human beings it is natural to want to look in the mirror. We like to be able to see what our bodies are doing. The best cues in the world may not be enough to combat this urge of the visual system in some individuals.

Now take a look at this video with the same individual performing a single leg deadlift without a mirror in front of him.

Take the mirror away and the exercise becomes great again. The individual maintains a neutral spine throughout the whole movement, allowing strain on the back to be reduced. Removing the mirror also promotes the individual to reinforce his kinesthetic awareness, or his recognition of where his body is located in space as he moves. This is an extremely important skill to refine because we don't walk around with a mirror in front of us all day!

So whether you're a clinician, trainer, aspiring student, or just working out on your own, it is important to understand that a mirror can act either as an affordance or a constraint. Use it to your advantage when needed, but do not become reliant on the mirror in your exercise programs.