Greek mythology states that Achilles was the greatest warrior of the Trojan War. When he was a child, his mother dipped him into the magical river, Styx – he was given powers of invulnerability, except for his heel. Unfortunately for Achilles, when his mother dropped him into the River, she held him by the heel; thus, Achilles Heel! Welcome to life -We all have weaknesses.
There are some of us who are quick; others have strength. It’s important as high school athletes to have both and limit our weaknesses – so our bodies are able to perform at its highest potential. There are three main altered movement patterns: Pronation Distortion Syndrome (knock-kneed), Lower Crossed Syndrome (anterior pelvic tilt) and Upper Crossed Syndrome (rounded shoulders). Anytime the human body distorts from normalcy, altered joint problems and pain may occur.
Pronation Distortion and Lower Crossed Syndrome are characterized by having tight hip flexors, adductors and calf muscles. Additionally, Lower Crossed Syndrome has tight middle and lower back muscles (lats and erector spinae). The upper crossed syndrome can be seen from computer junkies constantly typing away on computers in a hunkered down position. This prolonged position causes our chest and neck muscles to become tight. Whenever there is a tight muscle, we have a weak muscle on the other side of the joint -termed Arthrokinetic dysfunction.
The weak muscles consist of: Anterior tibialis (front calf muscles), glutes, posterior deltoids and deep spinal stabilizers are seen in the core and neck. All of these distortion problems need to be corrected and the sooner the better. We should be able to squat all the way down to the ground (baby pic), touch our toes to the ground and our hands behind our back for basic movement patterns. If we cannot perform these basic postural tests, then optimal performance cannot be attained. Here is how you can fix these problems.
1 – Self-myofascial release aka SMR or foam rolling. Now you understand why people are rolling around on those funny looking cylinder looking logs. They help release trigger points in tight areas within the muscle. Typically, I see people using these apparatuses improperly by rolling back and forth as fast as they can. The purpose of SMR is to alleviate tightness by holding for 20-30 seconds per hypersensitive area. Think of SMR as flossing for the muscles – we need to do it every day, and if we don’t, we will get a cavity; aka tightness. And the solution: Foam roll your calves, thighs and lats every day. DO NOT foam roll your lower back.
2 – Stretching. Arguably just as important as SMR, stretching is imperative. For performance, it’s recommended to stretch AFTER because holding a stretch can hinder maximal performance. There are two main types of stretching: static and dynamic. The difference between the two is by holding a stretch for 15-30 seconds and is referred to as static stretching. Sport specific movements such as a knee tuck or leg pendulums are dubbed dynamic – these are ok. Solution: Perform these stretches immediately after your workout or practice. Aim for 5-7 times a week holding each stretch for 15-30 seconds.
Groin stretch (abducting outward while knees are applying pressure)
Quad stretch (on the ground to emphasize hip extension)
Behind the back (see pictures to left)
Lat stretch (holding door)
Chest Stretch (across)
3 – Strengthen your weak areas. Imbalances are caused from over activation of certain muscles. The glutes are weak because we constantly engage our hip flexors from sitting all day. Upper Crossed Syndrome is seen a lot today in the gym because guys are performing too many exercises for muscles that can only be seen in the mirror, aka mirror muscles. Why do you think so many guys walk around with their arms puffed out like they have large back muscles? It’s not because they are buff, it’s because they have a muscular imbalance. I refer to this as ILS, aka Invisible Lat Syndrome. Solution: Engage your posterior deltoids and glutes more. For every push exercise that we do, we need to even it out with a pull, i.e. bench press & bent over row or push-up & aussie pull-up.
– Deep squats over leg presses. Athletes should not be doing leg presses. It’s not functional and the glutes are barely engaged.
– Aussie pull-ups over chin ups. When we hang under a smith machine back and pull up, we are requiring the posterior deltoids to be activated rather than the biceps during the chin-up.
– Bent over row over cable rows. Standing up at a 45 degree angle not only engages the core, but shifts the emphasis on the posterior deltoids.
– Glute / ham raises over hip abductors. Arguably one of the worst pieces of equipment in the gym, the adductors and abductors really hold no purpose (you could argue the same with leg press). Activate the glutes by pushing through your heels.
– Do core exercises and stop isolating the abdominals. The core consists of three regions: abdominals, obliques and lower back; why do we only do the abs? I want to see a 1-1-1 ratio. For every crunch, do a side bed and lower back extension. Holding planks for 10-15 seconds while drawing in your belly button the your spine is a great way to engage all three!
Make sure to follow everything that I have mentioned and before you know it you will won’t have any underactive muscles. Make sure to follow us for more at www.facebook.com/showupfitness