Hey there fellow trainees, gym enthusiasts, therapists and movement fanatics! This blog is dedicated to all those interested in injury preventative training and therapy. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to know more about my blog, myself or if you’d like to collaborate! Let’s turn Montreal, MontGluteal!
As the winter snow sets in, the temperature drops below 0 Celsius (below 32 Fahrenheit for my American friends) and our once lush green space becomes a frozen wasteland, I thought to myself that it would be a good idea to talk about winter walking (or as I like to call it ice creepin’). A few nights ago as I walked from my car to the restaurant for our x-mas party, there was a part of the path fully covered in hard, glossy smooth ice. I adapted my walking pattern to make sure I wouldn’t slip and fall either on my tailbone or God-forbid my head (and I didn’t for those wondering). For this blog’s topic, I’ll go over what a normal walking pattern (gait) should look like. After which I shall compare that with ice creepin’ and exercises that mimic its pattern.
Walking. Something we take for granted and believe to be so simple yet many people struggle (young and old) to have an ideal walking pattern. Dancers and martial artists tend to maintain a good walking pattern (depending on what you specialize in) because of the emphasis of maintaining a tall, open and proud posture as you stand and walk. The idea is to feel proud, confident and assertive in your walk. Head held high by a rope from the ceiling as you look in front of you, elongating your spine down to your coccyx. Shoulders rolled back and pulled down as your chest opens up. Palms to your side as your thumbs lead your arm swing. Opposite arm and leg movement occurs, forming an “X” formation from the front/back view (anterior/posterior views). Do not shuffle your feet when you walk since there is an increased risk of falls. Being silent as a cat, controlling your “heel-foot-toe” movement of your stance foot. Stomping produces unnecessary forces that travel up your foot to your body that causes more micro damage and stress to your joints. Here’s a gif of an ideal walking pattern.
Ice creepin’. Its words mean exactly what you will be doing when walking over an icy surface. As opposed to our ideal gait in the gif shown previously, your weight will be distributed downwards, arms out to the side and moving in a creeping or shuffling manner, taking small steps at a time. Knees stay bent and both feet never leave the ground. In this position, our centre of gravity stays close to the ground, reducing risk of slipping and falling. The movement is compared to penguins (they’ve mastered the movement so well that they can run over ice with no fear of falling). Also, the more fear you have of falling (eg. saying “I’m gonna fall!”) only exacerbates the probability of falling. Risk of injury is highly correlated with low confidence. To combat fear, concentrate on lowering your body, taking small steps and mimicking a penguin as you ice creep.
Comparison between just walking normally versus ice creepin’
They learn so young….
Exercise. Practice. But how can you practice ice creepin’? We all have pairs of socks and floors (ideally wooden or tile NOT rubber, concrete or carpeted) within our homes, right? Put on a pair (the thicker the better), take some space in your home (roughly ten steps), maintain a semi squat position by lowering your hips, bending your knees, arms out and begin shuffling forward (as shown in the gif above). Children do this all the time as play (ah the good times) but little do they know they are transferring this skill for ice creepin’. To increase difficulty, wear a thinner sock before putting on a thicker sock. Now you have 2 sliding surfaces (the thick sock with the floor and the thin sock with the thick one) that your body has to work with to maintain stability. This is the more functional exercise to practice ice creepin’, however you can always compliment it with other balance exercises (ie. single leg stability work). If you need help with increasing your balance always seek out a professional. Stay safe this winter! And with that my friends, let’s make Montreal, MontGluteal!
As some of you may know, my two greatest passions in life are; developing the human body as a machine and the traditional martial arts. My introduction to the human body as a machine came from my training years as an adolescent martial artist (ripe young age of 15). At that age, I was introduced to quite a few esoteric principles which I had difficulty comprehending. One of these enigmatic principles was “chi“. Having a very analytical brain the concept did not make much sense to my not fully mature brain. However, my sensei would constantly emphasize the theory that any powerful energy that we create must come from the hips and transmit either up or down the chain to the fists or feet, respectively. Channeling that energy was always the tricky part, because any leak within the system that did not tense up at the very last moment could either produce a mediocre release of energy or injury to yourself upon impact (I’m speaking from experience of course *humbling moment*). Sensei would always refer to this energy source as “chi“.
Speed up roughly 15 years down the road and my experience in both training, therapy and the martial arts, I’ve come to a moment of epiphany. Chi and core are synonymous. They both compliment one another. The earliest use of the word Chi came from the Shang dynasty in 1600 BCE. The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word “chi” as: in some systems of Chinese medicine and exercise, the most important energy that a person has. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “core” as: The muscles of the torso, especially the lower back and abdominal area, which assist in the maintenance of good posture, balance, etc. But also as: The part of something that is central to its existence or character. Looking at both definitions of “core” and “chi” there are similarities. Just the advent of the words were separated by several millennia.
The Western world views “chi” as this esoteric, mysterious energy that is a human being’s magical power; able to hurl immense amounts of damaging energy or deliver soothing amounts of restorative energy. Its the energy that we all possess in every breath that we expel or take in. Because of this definition, its been viewed as pseudoscience, but when compared to the Western definition of “core muscles” it actually makes quite a lot of sense.
There are many muscles that make up our core. Starting from the very top, our diaphragm muscle, responsible for every breath we take and give out allows full expansion and expulsion of our chest cavity, enabling maximum space for air to fill in and to leave our lungs, respectively. It lines up underneath the rib cage, separating our organs in our abdominal region from our lungs and heart. The word “chi” is spelt “qi” in the Mandarin dialect and its literal meaning is “air” or “breath” according to the Oxford Dictionary. Both definitions coincide with one another as we can see. Our rectus abdominis comes in next, lining from the 5th-7th cartilages of the rib cage down to the pubic bone where our torso ends. Its responsible for moving the lumbar spine and the infamous posterior pelvic tilts, but its primary use is increasing the intra-abdominal pressure (when you stiffen your torso during heavy lifts). The external abdominal obliques (AKA obliques for the general population) come in next. The start off from the lower eight ribs and run down to our iliac crest (the boniest part of where you place your hands on your hips) closing in to the pubic bone and hugs around the bottom aspect of the rib cage. These muscles allow trunk side bending (same side) and rotations (opposite side) to occur when working solo, but flex the trunk when both side are working together. The internal abdominal obliques which lie beneath the external ones come after. These come in from the lumbar region in the lower back, wrapping around the iliac crest and extending out to the lower three ribs, the bottom aspect of the rib cage and down to the pubic bone. It does the exact opposite movements of the external obliques for side bending (opposite side) and rotation (same side). The transversus abdominis, known to be the deepest part of the core musculature comes in last. Lying deep to the internal abdominal obliques, these muscles start off from the lumbar spine and wrap around to the front in a horizontal fashion (opposite formation of the rectus abdominis). Because of how its fashioned, upon contraction, it forms a corset-like effect, stiffening the trunk to stabilize the spine and pelvis before any extremity movement occurs.
Rectus abdominis runs vertically, external abdominal obliques down and in, internal abdominal obliques run up and transversus abdominis run horizontally.
The diaphragm muscle in relation to the transversus abdominis muscle.
From sport performance to activities of daily living, every movement that occurs needs to start from the deep core, our transversus abdominis muscle and our diaphragm. That is where our “chi” so-to-speak is housed. Both muscles work in opposition to each other (yin-yang principle). When the diaphragm contracts upon breathing, the transversus abdominis relaxes for air to fill in the lungs. When the transversus abdominis contracts to perform a movement, the diaphragm relaxes as we breathe out. This harmonious duality allows the maximum amount of air our chest cavity can house to feed oxygen to our body as well as create the maximum amount of power that our trunk can expel to release energy. Concept sounds a bit familiar? The notion of chi is instilled with our Western and scientific concept of how our bodies’ core works. Of course I’m not saying that we have the capability of hurling a fireball from our core or curing cancer from our breaths, but creating and restoring energy is very possible to master when putting this theory in practice.
Picture on the left: Transversus abdominis relaxes, diaphragm contracts, breath enters. Picture on the right: Transversus abdominis contracts, diaphragm relaxes, breath leaves.
So how do we put this into practice might you ask? Lie on your back on a floor. Keep your knees bent so your feet are flush to the ground and relaxed. Place the webbing of your hands (space between your thumbs and index fingers) on your hips. Index fingers are pointing to your belly button while your thumbs are pointing towards your back. Flattening your low back against the floor, by contracting your deep transversus abdominis muscles. You can feel the contraction under the tips on your index fingers. Release your breath upon doing this. Relax the deep core contraction and place your hands on your belly, right underneath your rib cage as you take a deep breath in. Focus on expanding from that area as opposed to your chest. Repeat. If you are unsure as to how to do this, I strongly suggest you seek out an athletic therapist, physiotherapist, a strength coach/personal trainer who has knowledge and experience with deep core activation. And with that my friends, let’s make Montreal, MontGluteal!
One of the things I’ve noticed in the gym setting, Instagram feeds and motivational training YouTube videos is a lot of people create a “giraffe neck” when lifting weights (especially heavy ones) and also during cardio exercises such as running. What do I mean by a giraffe neck might you ask? This…is…a…giraffe neck!
As you can see, this gentleman’s neck is poking out to look in front of him. In any lift, movement or position that you have; the head and spine should be relatively aligned. Meaning the head should sit atop the neck which lines up with the spine. The average adult head weighs about 10 lbs (4.5 kg). Now that weight is fully supported by our very delicate neck. Every inch the head migrates forward, creates an extra 10lbs of weight on the cervical spine and doubles the pressure required by the cervical muscles to support the head!
This woman’s posture is well aligned for her. She is looking directly in front of her. Forehead, eyes, nose and chin all parallel to the floor.
As our society have become more urbanistic in nature; texting, staring at computer screens, and the like have taken over and have affected our head/neck posture. This has given a rise in headaches, posterior neck pain (neck pain specifically from the base of the skull to the upper back) and chronic issues such as cervical disc herniations. Not that technology is bad, but its important for us to continue to be aware of how our body is positioned throughout the day to avoid the aforementioned problems from occurring. For M./Mme. Tout-le-monde, tucking your chin in while you text or work from your computer is important. You know that head rest on your chair or driver’s seat? Use that as a sensory aid to place the back of your head against to keep your chin tucked in and to reduce strain on your neck extensors.
Generally speaking, most individuals have tight neck extensors and weak neck flexors (similarly to most people’s low back muscles which are tight and deep abdominal core muscles which are weak). Performing this chin tuck will allow you to strengthen your cervical core muscles and loosen your cervical extensors.
Just as it is with the abdominal core muscles, having your cervical core muscles contracted will aid with your lifts as well. Bracing both cores will give you that extra boost to lift with more strength and less strain. Also it will avoid pulling on your discs, reducing your risk for a future cervical disc herniation (btw not fun to have since you will not want to move your head as much due to increased pain). Your neck is well created to support your heavy head but don’t abuse it because your body can only compensate for so long after which it will be yelling at you through the best way it can communicate: PAIN! So the photo shown above is the best way to go about for daily life activities, training and even during rest periods.
So if you ever feel yourself having to massage your neck cause its painful, ask yourself this: how is my neck posture? Does my head feel droopy? Does it feel heavy? If so, maybe its time to get on with your chin tucks! And with that my friends, let’s make Montreal, MontGluteal!
I’ve been asked this question on many occasions by concerned parents about their children who partake in sports and are contemplating on weight training. The simple answer to this question is a resounding YES!!! Now there may be a few skeptics out there and concerned parents ready to fire their questions at me. The whole idea about children weight training and injuries occurring was based on a paper from 1986 by Sewell and Micheli, clearly an outdated source (Micheli later in 1988 took back what he said, however the trend of abandoning weight training for adolescents caught on). The idea of weightlifting and stunted growth comes from an article in 2009 by Clarke and Khosla suggesting that testosterone may have some insignificant impact on closing growth plates. However, the myth caught on because the phrase “closing growth plates” was read and “insignificant impact” completely ignored…
The benefits of weight training outweighs the cons. For young boys, weight lifting can help on several aspects. Weight training increases bone mineral density, tendon and muscle strength, develop a healthy body composition, reduces level of aggression, anxiety and other psychosocial factors. Training regularly helps to develop discipline, commitment and time management at a young age which are beneficial traits that can be carried on to their adult years for both girls and boys. For young girls, working on bone density is crucial to start at a young age. Sedentary women post-menopause will lose a lot of bone mineral density (bone loss can triple after menopause) and the best way to retain it is through weight training. Starting young as girls, a buffer can be made that can help them when they reach their menopausal years. Young girls also receive similar benefits when it comes to developing a healthy body composition and psychosocial factors.
Injuries with weight training are bound to happen when proper form and technique are not established and an individual attempts a heavy load. This can easily happen to adolescents not being supervised by a personal trainer or a strength coach and attempting to hit their PR (Personal Record) just for bragging rights amongst their buddies. The primary focus for training this demographic is proper form and technique before intensity. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association all agree that a properly supervised strength training program can be beneficial for children and adolescents.
When it comes to weight training and stunted growth there is a lot more behind the science than what the public is aware. Testosterone is the sole hormone responsible for growth spurt in pubertal boys. In the initial phase of puberty, testosterone increases length of growth plates in long bones (eg. femur AKA thigh bone, humerus AKA arm bone). However, in later stages of puberty, testosterone slows it down and hardens the growth plate. Scientists are unsure of the exact reason as to how this reverse process occurs since its only been tested on rats. Here is the article for in depth detail. When we train, both males and females have an increased production of testosterone (an average man’s testosterone levels can be 15-18 times higher than an average woman’s). The theory of weight training and early closure of growth plates comes from an increase of testosterone due to training and how it affects the growth plates in youth. However, the studies are quite inconclusive AND every child goes through puberty at different ages and time lengths. As I’ve stated earlier, the benefits for pediatric weight training far outweigh the costs.
The second image shows a humerus of an adolescent. The growth plates expand since they are still spongy like material before hardening into adult bone like the third image.
So if your 15 year old comes up to you and wants to start weight training what should you say? The answer is “Yes!” Make sure you seek out a trainer or coach who has experience with pediatrics and is aware of the pediatric developing body. Remember teens are at a stage that need guidance, so letting them loose in the gym is not the best idea. Having a professional guide them through their health and fitness journey is key! and with that, let’s make Montreal, MontGluteal!
“So should I ice my back?” “Is it bad if I use a hot pack?” “But I like a hot pack when its -21 degrees!” These conversations pop up often when I work with clients, athletes or friends and family (sometimes even strangers….). The answer is it really depends on the condition you have and what stage of healing its at. So for this week’s article I will try to tackle this debate to the best of my abilities by identifying what each of them are, the physiological differences that occur, the modalities (or tools) available to Monsieur-Madame-Tout-le-Monde, when and why should they be used and the contraindications (cases that could be harmful to you).
So let’s start by describing the common modality: cold (AKA medically-termed cryotherapy). Cryotherapy comes from the Greek words “cryo” meaning “cold” and “therapy” meaning “cure” (although putting ice on your sprained ankle is far from an actual cure). The most common use of modern cryotherapy is icing with an ice bag. In the past, any form of injury was immediately treated with an ice bag, however recent scientific literature begs to differ the effectiveness of cold therapy. This has caused quite a controversy in the sports and therapy world since many of us stick to ice due to its traditional uses for acute injuries. Let me explain what goes on when an acute (eg. sprained ankle, pulled muscle AND by no means does the injury look or feel “cute”…) injury occurs. So you’re running to chase after a ball from your opponent as a soccer player. You cut a corner to go to your right to close her angle. Suddenly, you miss your footing, in rolls your ankle and down the ground you go. You feel an intense pain at the outside of your ankle and you can feel it balloon up within your cleat. You try to move your foot, but it just intensifies with more pain receptors. This is your body’s way of telling you “Don’t move! You’re hurt!”. So what’s going on inside your ankle? This is an early physiological response from your body to send large amounts of blood flow packed with inflammatory cells and blood proteins to start the healing process. There needs to be more room at the injury site for this to occur hence the initial swelling. Soooo what does the ice pack do when we put it there? Well the only role ice actually does is to prevent furthering this process. It reduces pain (this only occurs after 12 minutes of application. Initially, you will feel cold for the first 4 minutes, then burning for another 4 minutes, then pain and by the 12th minute you will feel the numbing that we aim to feel. The role of ice is to prevent further swelling (AKA edema) and increases vasoconstriction (makes the blood vessels smaller hence less blood pooling to the injury site).
If you haven’t noticed, the controversy is if your body’s initial reaction post-injury is to swell, increase blood flow and pain, but ice does the very opposite are we making things worse by going against what Mother Nature intended our bodies to do after an injury? My answer to this is there is a lot that happens to us that Mother Nature does not intend for us to do (spraining ankles) and our bodies will react in a manner it feels it knows best. Our bodies homeostasis (body’s internal regulatory system in response to external stimuli) is off with an ankle injury so it is going through a period of compensation. Our body is struggling to keep its internal balance. By having an ice pack placed on that ankle, we are using a modality to help the body reach a better form of homeostasis since its going through a minor shock due to the trauma sustained. So what’s my take on the controversy? Sure, putting an ice pack won’t cure the sprain. And yes, we are slowing its healing process a bit. But its a better idea to help the body not go completely crazy over a sprained ankle by giving a modality to help self-regulate internally. This is my theory and perspective on it and I am sure there will be people who disagree based on the theory I explained. Until we find a better modality to help with acute injuries, I’d rather use an ice pack to help calm the athlete’s pain sensation down, than explain to him the theory behind all this and do jack squat while he remains frustrated with his pain.
Ice is wrapped around to secure the ice bag.
P.R.I.C.E!!! For those Montreal Canadiens fans you will never (or should never) forget this acronym (must I need to say why??)! P is for Protect! Protect the area that is injured by being careful how you move or through crutches or a sling. R is for Rest! Rest for 24-48 hours since your body is in a state of self-healing and requires the appropriate amount of rest. That being said, do not remain completely immobile since this will delay the rehabilitation process of the injury. I is for (you guessed it) Ice! Ice the injury for roughly 15-20 minutes (larger areas, eg. thigh, shoulder, elbow, ankle) or 10-15 minutes (smaller areas, eg. fingers, toes). Wait till the area thaws before you begin to ice again, otherwise you may risk frostbite if you begin too early. It may take an hour or more before the area is well thawed. C is for Compress! Compress the area to limit the amount of swelling. You can use a tensor or elastic wrap around the joint with the ice bag to prevent further swelling. E is for Elevate! Elevate the limb so that the blood does not pool to the extremity of the area. Rule of thumb, keep the affected area at heart level (trick is to lie down so your heart level will be at its lowest so you only need to raise the area by a bit and you should be fine).
Ice isn’t for everyone however. Some people are allergic to cold or may have circulatory conditions that are adversely affected when cold is applied (Raynaud’s disease). For these people putting an ice pack directly is definitely not a good idea. For those allergic to cold, applying a paper towel or a piece of paper in between the skin and the ice pack may help. For those with circulatory conditions, it might be best to use a bucket of cold water (~10 degrees Celsius) as opposed to ice. However, if the patient/athlete cannot wiggle their toes or fingers, have a loss of sensation, or their pulse decrease, remove the cold from them!
Ice buckets are also a nice way to go about an acute injury. Fill a bucket with several ice cubes and cold water two-thirds of the way. If its an ankle injury using this method works well. Dump your foot inside and keep moving your foot in different motions to keep some mobility and not have it completely immobilized for 7-10 minutes. Make sure you keep a towel nearby as you will need it once done to dry off your foot. I personally found this method to be faster and more efficient as I felt less pain and more mobility. However, the swelling increased due to my foot soaking up the water inside.
So when do we use heat? And what’s its use? Heat AKA thermotherapy (Greek words “thermo” which is “heat” and “therapy” meaning “cure”) is used to increase circulation. In an acute injury, there is already a lot of circulation going to the injury site (so we never use heat), however, in a chronic injury (injury occurring after several weeks/months of small damages or microtrauma) circulation is reduced, therefore there is a lack of nutrients and oxygen to the site. So injuries such as tendinopathies, tight muscle and spastic back muscles can be treated with heat initially to bring blood flow and nutrients to the injured area and waste/toxins removed from the site. However, this is a temporary treatment which means if the root cause of the problem is not addressed, the aforementioned injuries may return. Hence the need for an athletic therapist or physiotherapist may be necessary to help return the body back into its happy place.
I recommend 10 minutes of a heat pack or sac magique to my clients/patients/athletes to help increase the blood flow. After which the effects of the heat are no longer useful. Those with low blood pressure may need to be careful when applying close to the neck or upper back region because an increase in blood flow comes with a decrease in blood pressure so use with caution. Its a pretty simple yet effective modality which helps increase blood flow as mentioned, mobility, decrease tightness and soreness.
So that pretty much sums up the blog for this week! I hope you all enjoyed the tips and advice given with this blog. Feel free to contact me for any questions, comments, rants and I’ll be glad to answer back! And with that, let’s make Montreal, MontGluteal!
Today’s post will revolve around the above topic. I discussed on my first post what it means to be training the true gluteal muscles (gluteus medius and minimus, oft forgotten). Today’s post will be similar, however targeting specifically on sport-specific training and the importance of it. Not only will I review a bit of the anatomy as I usually do (guilty of being an anatomy geek!), but I will go over the function of it in relation to sport (generally-speaking of course since different sports require different forms of conditioning). The sports that I will highlight and relate this topic to are those that require high-power movements such as: hockey, soccer (international football), rugby, basketball, American football, sprinters, gymnasts, martial artists and the like. I will choose 3 sports/positions (sprinters (covers all running sports without the cutting/change of direction aspect), basketball players and tae kwon do (martial arts)) and will break down the function of the gluteal muscles for each sport and propose exercises that could help for the specific demands of the sport.
So quick review of the gluteal muscles. We have gluteus maximus (glute max), by far the largest muscle that a human possesses and also the most powerful muscle we own. The gluteus maximus has its attachment points from the posterior iliac crest (back part of hip bones), wraps around to the back (posterior aspect) to the lower back (lumbar spine) going down to the sacrum and coccyx (tailbone) all the way to the greater trochanter (if you put your hand on your lower hip/upper thigh and move your foot as if squishing a bug you can palpate the bony greater trochanter. Give it a try!) It’s responsible for initiating lower limb movement (walking, standing from seated position, controlling the lifted leg to land when walking), extending, abducting and externally rotating the hips, rotating the pelvis posteriorly and extending the trunk. Because of its ability to deliver so much power and initiate movement its the second most important muscle in relation to sport (the first being the deep core muscles, of course. Stability then mobility always!).
The gluteus medius and minimus as I’ve discussed in my first post are the drivetrain to the motor AKA gluteus maximus. You can click the link above to find more info on them.
An anatomical diagram of where all 3 gluteal muscles are located. The deeper the muscle, the more it fine tunes the superficial and more powerful muscle (general rule of thumb). This is a posterior (back view) of our hips.
How to palpate your greater trochanter. Place hand as shown above. If you use your toes to squish something on the ground, you can feel a ball socket rotating beneath your hand. That’s the greater trochanter.
So the reason why I chose sprinting, basketball and tae kwon do is simply because the planes that the sport works under changes how the glutes are recruited. To break this even further, sprinting works primarily on the sagittal plane (horizontal, flexion-extension primary movements) which demands the gluteal muscles differently than basketball where the functions lie on the coronal plane (vertical, abduction-adduction primary movements), differing from tae kown do’s transverse plane (side, external-internal rotational primary movements). The direction of propulsion is different hence the fibers required for recruitment will differ. Here are diagrams for the more visual adept.
Working on the sagittal plane for sprinters and sports requiring sprinting.
Sports such as trampolining work on the coronal plane primarily.
Sports working through a rotational component such as tae kwon do will affect the transverse plane.
For true sprinting to occur from a dead stop (right before a sprinter begins her race), the athlete needs full hip extension. The greater trochanter should line up 45 degrees from the mid-foot (medial malleolus) through the trunk to the ear. In physics (which can be translated to humans), 45 degrees is the best angle for an object to be propulsed to attain the furthest horizontal distance. Any more or less, you will have a smaller horizontal distance. In human sprinting, the same theory can be applied so that your first step will be the furthest you can attain anatomically speaking (those with longer legs can reach more distance than shorter legs). This provides the athlete the perfect condition to propulse their body forward and eliminates possible wasted energy going in other directions. Sports other than sprinting can use this to their advantage are running backs, receivers (dead start to full sprint) in American football, forwards/defensemen (chasing for the puck) in hockey, defenders (chasing after an opponent) and strikers (breakaway) in soccer and rugby (start of play or pressing forward in the offensive).
In this case, the objective of the gluteus maximus is to drive the individual forward. Wall high knee drives are a great way to establish the 45 degree start position. Have a strength coach/personal trainer help you out in the beginning to find your 45 degree position. I have tried it and its surprisingly very low to the ground so I would advise you to seek help otherwise you will do this all wrong and practice in a energy leaking position. Place your hands on the wall at the level of your ears. One knee is up high with foot raised. Other leg is planted firmly with your forefoot and the leg is in triple extension (hip, knee extension and plantarflexion). As quickly as you can while pressing your hands against the wall, switch leg positions by driving the planted leg to a knee up position while the other leg lands, pushing against the ground. The picture here demonstrates the exercise plus key points.
Explosive wall knee drives a video you can look to get a more dynamic view of the exercise. You can do 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps and roughly 60-90 seconds rest between sets.
Cable or banded power knee drives are also a great way to recruit the hip flexors for sports requiring knee drive as well as control from the stance leg. Ideally, you would not want to hold onto anything and use your hands in opposing motion to your legs when moving (how a runner’s arms and legs move in opposing direction during a run). I would do 3-4 sets or 8-10 reps and 60-90 seconds rest in between sets.
Jumping requires the gluteal muscles to propel the athlete on a vertical axis. Basketball requires a great deal of vertical propulsion. Examples are guards (shooting for a 3 pointer, going for a rebound), center (taking jump ball, shooting and dunking) and forwards (shooting, blocking and dunking). Along with the glute max muscles being trained to propel the athlete vertically, the plantarflexors (calf muscles) are crucial to assist in gaining that “air” to reach their maximum height. If we break down the movement for a center when she needs to reach for the jump ball, she needs global full extension (from her ankles up to her fingers and head).
Diag. 1: The athlete is establishing her static height against the wall. (sky blue line) Diag. 2: She squats before her jump to culminate the power needed for maximum vertical jump height. Every part of her body is is near flexion. Notice how she coils into a spring (sky blue line). Just like compressing a spring together, the more compressed it is the more power an individual can unleash. That power is demonstrated in Diag. 3 where she unleashes the potential energy from Diag. 2 into kinetic energy Diag. 3. Notice how every part of her body (toes to fingers closest to wall) arched into extension.
Weighted vest jump squats are a good way to train for increasing vertical height. When doing jump squats, the landing is more crucial than the take off for prevention of injuries and longevity of your joints. Focus on soft landing (imagine a cat jumping off from a large height. You cannot hear even a thud with those prowling critters!) In order to create soft landing, sink into a squat by bending the knees into a 60-90 degree angle (past quarter squats, less than parallel squat). Less than that, the landing forces will be absorbed by your knees directly, taking a lot of damage over time. More than that, you will be exposing your knee joint to more shear forces also not good for your knee health. Have a strength and conditioning coach or a personal trainer guide you through a proper jump squat landing. You can do 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps and roughly 60-90 seconds rest between sets.
Coil into a spring before the jump. Arms back creates potential energy that will help for the jump. Swing arms forward during jump creates the “air” desired by these athletes.
Doing cable jump squats is another method of training the glute max to work vertically. Here is a video for a better demonstration. As soon as she reaches 90 degrees with her knees, she prepares for the next jump. Her chin is tucked in closing any potential leaks in her body (I might even go so far to say she could tuck it in a bit more to help create even more power) and she maintains a neutral spine throughout the exercise. You can do 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps and roughly 60-90 seconds rest between sets.
As I’ve gone over the movements for the glute max (as well as glute medius and minimus), rotation is one of the major movements involved. Glute max is responsible for external rotation whereas the glute medius and minimus take charge for internal rotation. One other major difference between the different glute muscles is that glute max is the more mobile and powerful one of all three muscles whereas the glute medius and minimus are primarily responsible for stability and endurance. That being said, when a martial artist (tae kwon do for example) goes for a roundhouse kick (look below for the gif) or a soccer player going for a long pass or kick, the glute max of the kicking leg is active and the glute medius and minimus are stabilizing the hip of the stance leg (makes sense so far, ya?)
Not the fake but the knockout kick is an excellent example of a successful roundhouse kick. Always keep your guard up in a fight. Or else, you’ll end up like that ragdoll…
So when it comes to training those muscles how do you go about them? I always like to begin with stability then move on to mobility. So strengthen the glute medius and minimus muscles. Click here for a sample of a few exercises. Having a coach or trainer guide you through them would be the best way to go! The fire hydrant is a great one to train the glutes on a more rotational plane. I recommend 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps. Add a theraband or ankle weights once it become too easy.
Really helps to get the more posterior (back) fibres of the glute max muscle.
Going from a knee bent to a knee extended with a theraband as shown in the next picture allows one to strengthen the abductor recruiting muscles of the glute max. I would go for 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions with 30-60 seconds break between sets.
This movement mimics the kicking motion in a tae kwon do artist. The theraband adds resistance so once without one, the leg can deliver one strong, swift swipe. Watch out!!
So there you have it folks! The section of glute training for athletes is complete! As you see, neglecting training the buttocks in a way is neglecting your peak performance. Why not take advantage by incorporating some of these exercises into your routine? If you have any questions feel free to reach me here. And with that, let’s make Montreal, MontGluteal!!!
So last week’s discussion was about deadlifts. The purpose of the lift and how to do it properly from beginning to end. There was a part that I mentioned in the article about keeping the shoulder girdle open and how the majority of us in an urban setting have them closed. Today’s topic will be about the dysfunctional shoulder girdle, why is that bad, what are the typical signs and symptoms and what to do about them! But first, let’s go through the anatomy of a healthy shoulder girdle!
The shoulder joint is one of the most complex joints in the human body. So bear with me as I try to walk you through the most versatile and vulnerable joint of ours. Let’s break the joint (not literally, but figuratively speaking. Believe me, no one wants that…) into bone, cartilage, ligament and muscle. Let’s go through the bones first as it is the deepest layer of the shoulder. The girdle is made up of 3 bones specifically: humerus, scapula and clavicle. The ball-and-socket joint that we hear of often involves the head of the humerus screwed into the glenoid fossa of the scapula. This creates the glenohumeral (GH) joint. The clavicle attaches onto the scapula through the acromioclavicular (AC) joint as the clavicle reaches out laterally (away from the midline of the body) to the acromion of the scapula. The AC joint is crucial with GH joint movement through flexion (raising arm in front of you) and abduction (raising arm to the side of you) primarily however, the AC joint is affected with most GH joint movements. Its something for movement professionals (PTs, ATs, OTs, trainers, coaches, etc) to be aware of because it can impact how well your patient/client/athlete can perform GH joint movement. If the AC joint is stuck or does not move well, it may impact GH joint flexion and abduction movements especially at the end range of the movement.
The GH joint is lubricated with the glenoid labrum (cartilage attached to glenoid fossa) and articular cartilage (attached to humeral head). Cartilage health is vital to how smooth any joint in the body is able to move pain free. Beginning stages of osteoarthritis begins with cartilage degeneration. As we age, its normal for the health of our cartilage to decline, however, if we are not careful (I need to take this advice myself), premature osteoarthritis can occur with early degeneration of the cartilage (as early as 19 years. I’ve worked with young athletes who were showing early signs of cartilage degeneration.) Early degeneration of the cartilage can occur due to poor movement patterns or overuse injury (side note: early specialization of a sport especially position can really impact cartilage health of developing young ones. According to Myer et al. early sport specialization can lead to an increase in overuse injury risk. If your children haven’t reached adolescence yet, there is no need for specialization. Its more harmful than good). Think of the cartilage as the lubricant for the chains of a bicycle. Without the lubricant, the chains become rusty, the switch of speeds is choppy and your bike doesn’t ride as smoothly as the cling clang chains accompany your pedal strokes. In the same manner, without cartilage your joint suffers the same way. Movement becomes painful and less fluid.
Ligaments are the structures that hold the joints together. Without them, your joints would continually pop out with a single movement. Ligaments are mainly to secure joints but they can also secure tendons when they pass through a groove (such as the long head biceps brachii tendon slipping through the bicipital groove secured by the transverse humeral ligament as depicted in the photo above). Your ligaments’ function is to prevent excessive movement that would otherwise create damage to the joints. Think of them like a string of yarn. You can pull it to make it taut but its ability to stretch is not much. This toughness helps the ligaments perform their function to prevent reaching ranges of motion that can be fatal to the joint. Ligaments involved in our shoulder girdle are: superior (SP), middle (MD) and inferior (IF) GH ligaments (bundled together as capsular ligaments of the GH joint), coraco-humeral (CH) ligament, coraco-acromial (CA) ligament, acromio-clavicular (AC) ligament and the coraco-clavicular (CC) ligament. The significance of the names are the attachment points of the ligament. Basically, stating which two areas are being secured by the ligament. Needless to say, there are a lot of ligaments in the shoulder girdle keeping the joint together.
For the muscles involved in the shoulder girdle, there are too many to name them all and describe their function so I will describe the ones that are commonly involved in our urbanized and dysfunctional forward shoulder posture AKA the upper crossed syndrome. Let me start off by naming the ones that are generally weak in the general population: the rotator cuff muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor), serratus anterior, rhomboideus major and minor, trapezius (middle and inferior fibers) and latissimus dorsi. The ones that are tight (not necessarily strong, but tight due to remaining in the same position over long periods of time) are the following: pectoralis major and minor, biceps brachii, upper trapezius, levator scapulae and sternocleidomastoid (SCM for short). Our daily posture of slouching, keeping our head bent forward instead of erect and hunching our shoulders forward creates this imbalance of the posterior (back) and anterior (front) areas. This poor posture over time leads to shoulder limited range of motion (and eventually shoulder pain and weakness), headaches, shoulder tightness and upper back/neck tightness. Here’s a photo for the more visual as to what goes on when these structures are affected.
Summary of the muscles we discussed that are the culprit…
Not the best desk work posture to have…
And the notorious text neck posture! Keep your head up, chin in, lady!
So essentially what ends up happening is our shoulders tend to favour remaining in that closed position and have a hard time moving freely where it wants. The internal structures I described earlier do not have much free space because of the compromising muscular structures. Let that continue over time and now we have all the structures staying stuck and close to each other. This will create discomfort initially in the shoulder and neck regions, but can be further exacerbated to pain and even numbness and tingling sensation if neglected (not good signs! If you have those please seek medical attention!). Sooo what can we do to prevent this from happening? I’m so glad you asked!
Ideally, we’d all go back to living on farms, feeding horses and milking cows and our lifestyle would require no gym work, but who am I kidding? While we’re all stuck in an urbanized setting for the time being, we need to develop strategies to help us keep our shoulder and neck health in check. Having worked with office workers in a clinical and personal training setting, I’ve developed ways to help this vulnerable population. For those with a chair at a desk, opt for the least comfortable kind. You might be a bit confused and thought you read it wrong, but hear me out. Wooden chairs or chairs with a stiff back help you to keep your back straight (shoulder blades glued to the back frame, abdominals engaged, neck and head straight, chin tucked in) whereas a very comfortable and lofty CEO chair feels very nice and relaxing, however it helps you take on a more sloppy seated position, leaving your body to lie however it wants (not always a good thing mind you). If your company can opt for a swiss or physio ball that is even better since the slight imbalance created by the ball will constantly be a reminder to you and your body to adjust to your ideal posture (which we all need).
Shoulders open up if you glue the shoulder blades to the chair.
You have the liberty to move with the physio ball and keep your posture erect.
What else can be done? Breaks! When you go to the washroom for a break, remind yourself of how your shoulders are sitting inside the socket and relative to your body. If you find them slouching too much then stop for a second and readjust. Every conscious effort will eventually transition to a subconscious effort. You just need to put the time into it.
Things you can do at the gym to help open up the shoulder girdle are the following exercises. For your warm-up, place a rolled up towel in between your mid to lower shoulder blades as you place your back against the wall. Now squeeze your shoulder blades together (retraction for the anatomical term of the movement) for 5 seconds and then slowly bring them back to neutral without letting the towel move or drop. Continue this for 15 repetitions (perfect practice makes perfect!). Its a staple exercise I use with almost all my clients/patients that report shoulder issues and/or have forward rounded shoulders. This helps to engage the middle trapezius and rhomboideus muscles which are often weak in our populace.
That’s the movement of your shoulder blades for the aforementioned exercise.
Wall slide is another great exercise to open up that shoulder girdle. Start off seated back against the wall. You can do whatever you like with your legs but I prefer sitting crossed legged. Next, have your forearms touching against the wall, palms out and elbows tucked close to your body. Glide your arms across the wall by straightening out your elbows, leading with your fingers diagonally in an upwards direction. You should feel the lower trapezius muscles (lower ends of the shoulder blades going down to your lower spine) tightening as you perform the glides. This is quite a demanding exercise so in the beginning you may go with 2 sets of 8 repetitions. Aim for 3 sets within 2 weeks. Your shoulders will thank you.
Try to keep you shoulder blades glued to the wall when performing this exercise. And smiling/grimacing is cool too! 😀
So that’s all for this article folks! It’s a pretty thorough article and a lot of information so let that sink in for a bit and give those exercises a try during your warmup. You will feel taller, breathe better and easier (opens up the chest cavity allowing more air to come in and out) and most importantly, happy shoulders! So that’s a wrap! And with that, let’s make Montreal, MontGluteal!