The Lower Limb and Why It Should Be Important to You

With the initiation of a third lock down in the UK we thought it would be a great idea to engage our readers in some motivating posts to help keep you motivated.  We welcome back APA coach Konrad McKenzie with a weekly guest post.

 

Hi guys,

Today I wanted to talk about one person’s friend and another person’s enemy. The calf. The time where it gets to summer and you realise neglecting your calves all winter makes itself apparent in shorts. But, did you know that the calf plays a pivotal role in physical performance? I’m here to explain why.

At APA we have been having some great discussions around the calves and I am excited to share some of this information with you. Before we dive into training the calf, I wanted to briefly talk about its anatomy, as it will allow the reader to understand what role it plays in sprinting. The two muscles that I want to focus on are the Gastrocnemius and the Soleus. Both muscles insert in to the Calcaneus via the Achilles tendon however what is interesting to highlight that the Soleus (mono-articular), unlike the Gastrocnemius (bi-articular), does not cross the knee joint.

 

The Soleus explored further

Whereas the gastrocnemius plays more of a propulsive role the Soleus (coming from the latin word “Solea”) plays an important role in stability during running.

The Soleus will work hard to keep the tibia over the Calcaneus to prevent you from falling forwards, during this time forces up to eight times bodyweight can be tolerated. The Soleus is predominately made up of Type 1 Slow twitch fibres.

Due to the higher proportion of type one fibres the Soleus is known as the “Workhorse” due to its high endurance capability and high importance in stabilisation.

 

The Gastrocnemius explored further

Whereas the Soleus plays more of a supportive role in Explosive activity the Gastrocnemius are able to provide a significant source of power in propulsion due to the higher proportion of type two fibres.

“Our simulation reveals that the ankle plantarflexors are the primary contributors to both propulsion and support of the body mass center during late stance” – (Hamner et al, 2010)

The Achilles tendon explored further

Also known as the biological springs, tendons play a vital role in assisting muscle work by storing energy known as elastic strain energy. This allows the human movement system to go beyond its intrinsic muscle properties, once this energy is released. As a result this amplifies power output. It is important to note that “Amplification” does not necessarily mean adding energy to the system but rather its rapid release.

I have always been fascinated by the “spring” in the Masai warrior, a real display if athleticism, the reader is encouraged to have a look at this on YouTube.

What role does the high strength & stiffness in the calf complex in injury prevention?

 

“Strengthen your calves, save your hips”

With the lockdown upon us and many more people participating in running based activity it is useful to incorporate some exercises to help keep you robust. During running the Soleus works eccentrically to slow the forward movement of the shin, with the aim of reducing knee load. Additionally, having strong calves will help you move with biomechanical efficiency preventing problems further up the body particularly in the hip region.

Give this a try

Rather than perpetually stretching your calf muscles, have you ever thought they might be weak?

If you haven’t got access to fancy force plate testing systems, try finding a bench or a step. Perform a straight legged, single leg calf raise till voluntary failure, how many repetitions did you get? Does your technique begin to breakdown before 20-25 repetitions? Then it may be time to add some calf strengthening to your routines.

OK my Calves are weak what can I do about it?

  • Bodyweight to loaded progressions
  • Aim for 2-3 sessions a week
  • Aim for 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions

Mastered this? Now let’s look at loaded progressions?

The muscles of the calf complex are strong and to train them effectively, once they reach a certain level, will require significant amounts of load, to put this into perspective elite athletes will use 20% of their bodyweight of each leg for three sets of 20 repetitions. In some cases athletes will handle loads of 200% of bodyweight in an isometric contraction (3-5 second holds). Additionally, performing exercises, e.g calf raises, with a bent knee will bias the Soleus.

What about plyometrics?

You have performed a knee to wall test and you’ve determined you have ample range of movement. Does this mean you have bullet proof lower limbs? What if I told you that having too much flexibility without pre-requisite strength and stiffness could create joint instability? Thus risk of injury.

When broken down into its parts. Running is a series of hops from one leg to another, therefore musculo-tendinous units need sufficient “spring” and pre-activation for propulsion and injury prevention.

Once you have determined that your lower limb has suitable levels of strength and endurance it will be a great time to add in some plyometrics into your program. A good approach I like to use is extensive to intensive exercises. E.g pogo jumps progressing to activities that place greater demands on musculo-tendinous structures.

Ultimately, nothing will eliminate the risk of injury entirely unless you stop playing sports entirely, but we can give our bodies the ability to at least tolerate the demands placed on the body by sporting activities. The lower limbs are often overlooked but once we understand a bit about their role and function in sports, their importance becomes apparent.

Although simplified, as the human body is more complicated than we think, I hope this blog has been insightful and given you some things to think about and explore in further detail. I want to leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein

“Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler”

 

Thanks for reading guys,

Konrad McKenzie

Strength and Conditioning coach.

 

Liked This Blog?

You might like other blogs on this topic from APA:

APA review of the Middlesex Students S&C conference 2014

The Dubious Rise of the Corrective Exercise ”Pseudo-Physio” Posing as a Trainer- My thoughts

as well as two recommended articles:

This article on weak Glutes during Squatting

And this one on Exercise Modifications 

Do you feel that this would be a perfect time to work on the weak links that you have been avoiding? The things that you know you should be doing that you keep putting off? Would you like us to help you with movement screening and an injury prevention program? Then click on the link below and let us help you!

👇 TRAIN WITH APA 👇

Aspiring Pro Training Support Packages

 

 

Follow me on instagram @konrad_mcken

Follow Daz on instagram @apacoachdaz

 

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  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help

Since you’re here…
…we have a small favor to ask.  APA aim to bring you compelling content from the world of sports science and coaching.  We are devoted to making athletes fitter, faster and stronger so they can excel in sport. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage the authors with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics. — APA TEAM

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Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW- Episode 298 PJ Vazel

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 298 – PJ Vazel

PJ Vazel

YouTube Channel

Background: 

PJ Vazel

PJ started as a sports journalist for the IAAF and began coaching in 2004 in the same year, coaching sprinters from Nigeria, Greece and France, Switzerland and Senegal.  He has most recently been coaching in throwing at World championship and medal level since 2015 when he came back to France.

Discussion topics:

Where did that love of sports history come from?

”I like the search of origins.  From a coaching perspective I had some ideas but I was not sure how to implement them, I was searching for what had been done before so not to replicate the mistakes and to go faster.  I wanted to know how the technical and resistance training had evolved over the decades, including the rules and regulations.”

 

How did you first get into coaching?

”I was asked to help a young sprinter find a coach.  I asked around and actually no one was willing to help him, so some people told me: ‘coach him, go ahead and start!

Working with a young Nigerian sprinter he had never had a coach, and I had never had an athlete, so it worked very well.  He had no bad habits and we were discovering everything and eager to learn together.  He was very motivated as every race he had was a way of living for him.

I was travelling with him and sleeping on the floor, but what I learned is that really you meet some athletes who have extra motivation and they are killers on the track and that’s the kind of people you are going to meet, and you have to prepare athletes for that!

Fortunately a huge part of sports history is the history of training methods so I kind of learned by accident the methodology of training so I integrated it.  The most difficult thing was to gauge the volume of training and basically what I did was cut everything in half from what I was reading in the books.  I kind of felt what he needed and the connection with the athlete.  I needed to trust the athlete and observing him, listening to what he had to say because he had a lot of experience.  Athletes use their body once or twice a day as their main work tool, so they know more more and as coaches we have to listen more to them.”

 

Do you think with your lack of experience you were more willing to listen to your athletes rather than thinking that you know best?

”Not really because we all start from scratch.  The funny thing with my coaching debut was that I was still not fluent in English at all, so I had nothing much to say to them in English.  I was just listening to them, and I think that was better because I think that as a young coach I thought I knew a lot.  I think that if I had started with a French athlete I would have told them everything I knew, which I think is the wrong approach.

If I had something to say I was managing to tell them [in English] but the important thing I was saying was the only thing I was saying.

Because I was a young coach, others were not afraid to tell me their secrets.  I remember going to every athlete/coach who made the final and asked, ‘are you doing weights, and if yes, what weights are you doing?’  I found that everyone who made the final were doing weights.  I then went back to my athlete who was the first out of the semi-final: ‘look you are the only one who is not doing weights, and you are the only one who has not made the final, so maybe we need to do something different next year.”

 

How has the history of sprinting changed in the last twenty or so years?
”I believe that nothing much has changed in the last 20 years or so compared to perhaps the changes that took place in the earliest part of the 21st century and even up to after the war, where science and methods evolved every four years.  In the last 20 years high tech technology yes but the concepts have not evolved.

Take ancient Greece, they weren’t very concerned about times and to record it because they didn’t have a way to measure it with accuracy.  It was only in the late 18th century when we started to do sprint races where we could time it which influenced a lot the training methods of the 19th and 20th century.
Perhaps you could say there is more of a focus on High-intensity now, not only in sprinting but also in weight training and also in team sports.  But it is a throw back to what was done in the early 20th century when athletes started to specialise in certain events (before they were all round athletes in the 19th century) and the physique was not that specialised either where the same person could win the short sprints and the long sprints.  In the 20th century it was deemed that you were either born fast or for endurance, with certain psychological traits associated with those disciplines.  This lead to the idea that in order to get fast you just needed to sprint, and don’t go against your nature.  And I think we see this now, where you are told to sprint with high intensity and low volume, but that’s what they did back then in the early 20th century.

If you look at the results you get from this [specific] approach, you improve very fast in what you are doing because you are mostly doing the same thing but you reach a plateau very soon and you get tired, and you don’t improve anymore and you may even regress.

There are more efficient approaches utilising more general training in the winter because they could see they could improve over a longer time during winter and get ready for summer competitions.  Because if you only sprint fast, within a few weeks you will plateau.  This concept of variability was very well understood in the 1960s.  Maybe now we are very focused on top speed and power, and finding out the exact power output you need to train.”

What about the introduction/use of strength training- what impact has weight training had on the sport? And did it go too far and perhaps become too important and now it has regressed?

”So in the 19th century athletes were lifting weights because they were also throwers, power lifters etc and doing all kinds of training.  When sprinters started to specialise there was this idea that you needed to be light and doing weights you would get big, so weights are wrong.
Now you can still find sprinters doing weights just for conditioning using dumbbells throughout the centuries but what really changed was science tried to prove whether it was meaningful to lift weights or now, so in Eastern Europe a landmark study in 1946 was done, because everything even politics had to have a scientific justification.
They did a study comparing athletes who did weights and athletes who didn’t do weights, and looked at who is improving the most in terms of results.  It was found that throwers and sprinters who added weights to their training had better results in competition in their main event.

However what was interesting, and a point that was lost in this research over the years, was that yes you need to do weights but it should not be at the expense of amplitude and relaxation of movement.

This advice got lost because when they started to quantify this type of training they noticed that the more you train the better the results, which is true.  It is an observation that you cannot deny.  But the experience of coaches in the field, showed them that there was a limit to this.  But far from being unified the research was full of contradiction and controversies and the articles back then showed a big battle between coaches and scientists who disagreed over how much weights to do!”

Why has there been so much more focus on Maximum Power?

”If we think about weight training, they soon discovered that there was an optimal amount and they needed to improve maximum strength as well as speed so they started to record the bar speed, and jump height in the late 1950s as opposed to just the max squat strength (absolute strength).
The only concept that was not really important for the coaches in the 1950s that was not important then but is important now is the concept of max power.  But back then the concept of variability of training meant that to improve your power you needed to improve your max strength and your speed-strength.  But in between just focusing on that max power doesn’t make sense because you need variability.
Using a variation of power athletes in the 1950s were improving more than the athletes using the exact power of their specific event) which is the 7kg implement of the shot put.  Only using the implement is less efficient than changing.  Why? Because of variability.  You are improving your technique because of the feeling of the muscles, small variations makes you a better skilled athlete.  Also the best intensity is not always 100%- at 90-95% you can still work at a high enough intensity to be relevant to your nervous system but you can also do enough volume to get the repetition of practice needed.  If you train 100% every time, you are crushing your nervous system, you can’t train at enough volume and you lose your relaxation!
Most elite athletes who have achieved their best throws will tell you, that it felt easy, and they felt they could have done more!”

What do you think about some of Frans Bosch’s ideas?

”He presented a lot of interesting exercises when I listened to him present.  I think a lot of coaches focus more on the exercises rather than thinking about the philosophy and how to implement/progress them.
With instagram you now have athletes who will say to their coach, ‘I want to do this exercise.’ Usually the exercise is too advanced for the athlete and you have to explain to the athlete that there is a progression.   I think that most of what Frans presents is far too difficult for the athletes, even elite athletes.  Many athletes are great compensators and have developed crazy skills that hide great weaknesses.  And those are the weaknesses you need to address, and sometimes those fancy and complicated exercises are not pointing the finger at the weak part of the chain.”

Top 5 Take Away Points:

  1. Importance of variability- you can improve for longer without crushing your nervous system
  2. Listen to your athletes- Athletes use their body once or twice a day as their main work tool, so they know more more and as coaches we have to listen more to them.
  3. Earn the right! Many athletes are great compensators and have developed crazy skills that hide great weaknesses.  And those are the weaknesses you need to address, and sometimes those fancy and complicated exercises are not pointing the finger at the weak part of the chain
  4. Importance of relaxation- yes you need to do weights but it should not be at the expense of amplitude and relaxation of movement.
  5. Paradox of intensity- alternate days of high intensity with low intensity.

Want more info on the stuff we have spoken about?  Be sure to visit:

Twitter:

@PJVazel

You may also like from PPP:

Episode 297 Cam Jose

Episode 295 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 292 Loren Landow

Episode 286 Stu McMillan

Episode 272 Hakan Anderrson

Episode 227, 55 JB Morin

Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely

Episode 212 Boo Schexnayder

Episode 207, 3 Mike Young

Episode 204, 64 James Wild

Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass

Episode 183 Derek Hansen

Episode 175 Jason Hettler

Episode 87 Dan Pfaff

Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 15 Carl Valle

Hope you have found this article useful.

Remember:

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  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help

Since you’re here…
…we have a small favor to ask.  APA aim to bring you compelling content from the world of sports science and coaching.  We are devoted to making athletes fitter, faster and stronger so they can excel in sport. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage the authors with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics. — APA TEAM

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Are You Taking Care of Your Feet?

With the initiation of a third lock down in the UK we thought it would be a great idea to engage our readers in some motivating posts to help keep you motivated.  We welcome back APA coach Konrad McKenzie with a weekly guest post.

 

The wider the base the higher the peak, but do we spend enough time looking after our base?

Hey guys,

Konrad here and today I wanted to talk about foot health and strength, sometimes overlooked in the area of physical conditioning (I have been guilty of it myself). However, our feet are considered our suspension that plays a vital role in interaction with the ground.

 “Despite getting stronger, some athletes will still remain in “turtle mode” for reactive demands, while their peers train, get stronger, and are able to improve on the springy base they already have. What is this “springy base”? The answer is: the foot.” – Joel Smith

Before we dive into training methods I wanted to lightly touch on the anatomy of the foot to give the reader appreciation of the foot’s complex and pivotal role in athletic movements. A detailed inspection of the foot will fall outside the scope of this blog, but I thought the readers would benefit from an overview. As the saying goes ‘you can’t shoot a canon from a canoe.’

The forefoot

The foot can be divided into three areas the forefoot, midfoot and rear foot. The forefoot is an important part of the foot as this includes the Toe (First Metatarsal). As you can see from the picture above this bone is quite thick and short compared to the other metatarsals. It is known as the shock absorber and plays a vital role in propulsion. Try sprinting after a long layoff, I guarantee that big toe will be sore!

Midfoot

As you may see from the picture the midfoot is made up of five irregularly shaped bones called the Tarsals. Clinically, these are called the Cuboid, Navicular and the Cuneiforms (medial, lateral & intermediate). These bones form the arch of the foot, which provides stability.

Rear foot

The rear foot is composed of the Talus and the Calcaneus, the Calcaneus is also known as the heel and the Talus sits on top of the Calcaneus and provides a pivoting joint for the ankle.

Muscles and tendons of the foot

We have briefly spoken about the bones in the foot. Now we will briefly look into the muscles that control the foot. The musculature that controls the foot originated in the lower leg. These are then attached to the foot via tendons and ligaments. These muscles include the Tibialis posterior, Tibialis Anterior, Peroneus Longus and Brevis, Extensors and Flexors. These muscles move, support and allow movement of the foot.

Lastly, the tendons include the Achilles tendon (the largest and strongest tendon) which runs from the calf to the heel. This tendon is highly utilised in sprinting and plyometric activity. Other tendons include the posterior and anterior Tibial tendon. The reader is encouraged to explore the anatomical origins and insertions further.

Thought this would be an engaging picture. Check out the stretch in the Achilles tendon in frames ‘B’ and ‘C’.

You are now aware that our foot is a vital link between us and the ground. The foot’s ability to absorb many times our bodyweight, through activities such as jumping and sprinting highlight their importance in relation to health and physical training. Personally, I make sure that all my physical training programs contain exercises which focus around foot strength and stability.

Ok, we get it its importance how do we train the feet better?

I wanted to share some training ideas you could use to strengthen the feet. Some of these ideas will not be as complex as one may assume. These ideas presented will, hopefully, be practical enough that you can implement with minimal equipment and mental bandwidth!

More barefoot work

The beauty about this, is you can incorporate this method into your everyday training (provided it’s safe). Before we dive into this I want to quickly quote a highly respected Strength and conditioning coach Loren Landow, someone much smarter than me on this topic;

“The problem when people start doing ‘barefoot’ work is that they go for the gusto! It’s not about sprinting in barefoot, it’s about doing these intrinsic movements (such as standing on two feet or one foot and rotating around your feet to feel the eversion/inversion etc) to get you a better foundational stability.  I may squat them and do lunges but I think people are getting a little too carried away doing all their locomotive drills barefoot.  Is the juice worth the squeeze for the risks/benefit?”

Now, sometimes people are guilty of receiving thought provoking information and going to extremes, you can see this in ‘diets and training fads. However, small alterations in behaviours may elicit large pay offs. In this case, it may be worth doing some weight room and balancing activities barefooted to challenge stability and strength.

Where possible, a trainee should try incorporating more barefoot training for two reasons. 1) Increasing intrinsic foot strength 2) Improve the sensory processing between the feet and the ground. You will sometimes hear coaches suggesting to “feel the ground” during activities such as weightlifting. Shoes may make it more difficult to attain this sensory awareness. Moreover, training barefoot in different environments could great superior adaptations whilst your system tries to find stability in chaos.

Skipping

Since starting work in Tennis, I was surrounded by youth athletes who could skip with prowess and flair! It was so refreshing that a relatively simple training tool was a piece of equipment in every athlete’s bag. Additionally, we get so lost in the complexities of training methodology that we forget about the brilliant basics. However I mentioned in a previous blog that those who understand principles can employ any method. What are we getting out of skipping? Repeated submaximal and stiff ground contacts. Not mentioning other benefits such as rhythm and aerobic fitness (Depending on how you implement it). You could even try doing this on a barefoot for the reasons alluded to in the previous paragraph.

Intrinsic foot strengthening exercises

Intrinsic foot strengthening may not be seen as the most glamourous exercises but important considering the time spent in shoes, socks and walking on even terrain. Additionally, as you delve further into the human body, you will appreciate the dynamic and complex interconnections. This blog post about back pain being relating to the big toe highlights this.

“Due to cramped spaces and the inability of the joints to function in their natural range of motion, our brains lose the neurological connection to the muscles of our feet, causing compensations. Luckily, neuroplasticity (the ability for our brains to change the neural circuits to our bodies) dictates that it is possible to improve and even reverse chronic instability of the foot, and thus joint pathologies and pain.”

– Arash Rex Maghsoodi

The Prehab guys have some great content around foot strengthening, particularly around big toe movement, give some of their exercises a go. You can practice them in the shower!

Overall, this an area I will explore further and I hope you will too.

Many thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it!

Konrad McKenzie

Strength and Conditioning Coach

 

Liked This Blog?

You might like other blogs on this topic from APA:

APA review of the Middlesex Students S&C conference 2014

The Dubious Rise of the Corrective Exercise ”Pseudo-Physio” Posing as a Trainer- My thoughts

as well as two recommended articles:

This article on weak Glutes during Squatting

And this one on Exercise Modifications 

Do you feel that this would be a perfect time to work on the weak links that you have been avoiding? The things that you know you should be doing that you keep putting off? Would you like us to help you with movement screening and an injury prevention program? Then click on the link below and let us help you!

👇 TRAIN WITH APA 👇

Aspiring Pro Training Support Packages

 

 

Follow me on instagram @konrad_mcken

Follow Daz on instagram @apacoachdaz

 

Remember:
  • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help

Since you’re here…
…we have a small favor to ask.  APA aim to bring you compelling content from the world of sports science and coaching.  We are devoted to making athletes fitter, faster and stronger so they can excel in sport. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage the authors with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics. — APA TEAM

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Finding Opportunities in Chaos- Corrective Exercise

With the initiation of a third lock down in the UK we thought it would be a great idea to engage our readers in some motivating posts to help keep you motivated.  We welcome back APA coach Konrad McKenzie with a weekly guest post.

Good afternoon guys,

In the midst of chaos there, there is always opportunity” Sun Tzu

Today I wanted to talk about finding opportunities in chaos, Chaos being a disruption to our normal routine. Opportunity, using this time to 1) work on the activities we may have been neglecting 2) work as close to plan A as possible.

Whilst I do not want to turn this into a philosophy lesson sometimes it is helpful to know that we have the power to control our daily actions regardless of circumstances out of our control. This is why for the next seven weeks I want to give you the opportunities, in the form of weekly blogs & exercises, to keep on top of your education and training regardless, of location.

Today’s blog is going to focus on the activities we may have been neglecting and that is correctives. Lower magnitude exercises which aim to restore muscular balance and functionality in the body. Some practitioners like to do these as part of a warm up, rest periods in between core lifts or at the end of a session as part of a robustness circuit. It’s really up to you and your sequencing method.

Next comes the question well what correctives shall I do?

This will depend on your individual needs, after an assessment and a previous injury check. But a quick and handy assessment is an overhead squat.

Believe it or not this this assessment requires a lot of athleticism, movement functionality and structural alignment in the ankle, hip & shoulder. If you want a test that gives you a lot of information with minimal time input the overhead squat is a go to.

Additionally, this test can be manipulated to answer some questions (Most of us are aware of the term regional interdependence and how the body is an interconnected system). For example, how might a person be able to solve the movement problem (Overhead squat) “if I were to elevate their heels? Will it improve? If so, could a tight ankle complex be an issue? Why is it tight?” Deeper thought and a conversation arises.

Common impairments

Knee Valgus (Inward rotation of knees)

Now before we dive into the causes and the potential solutions of the problem I want to give some of my insights on this hotly debated topic. Sports will sometimes place the body in unfavourable positions and granted the athlete has the capacity to tolerate this, they tend to come away injury free. Additionally, during the ascent of a squat, muscles of the adductor complex play a role in hip extension. Finally, during some kinematic analysis of sprinting, occasionally you will see some elite athletes display slight internal rotation and subsequent pronation of the foot during acceleration. In my view it’s all about context (athlete level, age, gender etc.) I personally, would not be happy with a young athlete performing a loaded squat with knee valgus particularly, in the eccentric portion of the lift or landing from a box. I think  youth need to master the basics and build good habits.

Arms falling forward

I see this in a lot of youth Tennis players, due to the probable over activity of the Pectorals (major & minor) and the Latissimus Dorsi. Consistent lengthening of the back musculature and the shortening of pecs in the forehand and the serve, it is not hard to understand this occurrence. Additionally, bad postures as a result to binge watching television and IPhone usage may further add to this recipe. Whilst perfect structural symmetry is hard to achieve, sometimes undesirable, it is important to strengthen the upper back musculature as much as we can to reduce likelihood of shoulder injuries.

Finding the culprit

Now, sometimes we perform the overhead squat and for example, see that the young athlete displays an ‘excessive forward lean and excessive lumbar arch’ in their movement assessment. How do we figure what the potential issue is? Here is a quick guide.

Option 1: Place two weight disks (or something to elevate the heels) Does the squat improve? In my personal experience I have seen about 90% of young athletes improve after doing this. Placing a weight disk underneath heel takes away the stretch from the Soleus allowing athletes to display better squat patterns. This may indicate a tightness in the calf and ankle complexes.

If squat still looks sub-standard then there’s a chance that you will have to look into what is occurring at the hips.

Option 2: Ask athlete to place hands on the hip as they squat, does it improve? Again I regularly see improvements in squat performance. If the squat makes an improvement after this adaptation then it is likely the Lats and muscles surrounding the shoulder capsule are overactive.

Now, I do not want to sound reductionist and too linear in my article. As know the world, the human body operates as a system, with lots of cofounding variables. However, recognition that a noticeable compensation could be as a result of a dysfunction somewhere else is profound. For example, a problem at the foot and ankle could cause pain in the shoulder due to the interconnections of fascial slings. If muscles are overactive in particular areas then we have to try and discern why, not just instinctively and perpetually stretch it.

Whilst a movement screen such as an overhead squat is not the answer, it is certainly a start point, where practitioners can be combine this information with other measures to create a story.

‘Let the questions be the curriculum’ – Socrates.

If I find these compensations what shall I do about it?

In this last section I want to give you a couple of exercises, from my toolbox to help you combat the two issues presented in the ‘common impairments’ section.

Banded Clamshells

Often knee valgus, is present when muscles of the hips (external rotators) are underactive. So we think of exercises used to stimulate this area. One of my favourites is the banded clamshell as it places a great emphasis on the external rotators. This exercise can also be regressed and progressed as needed. I find that some of the stronger players benefit from progressing this to a plate loaded clamshell (holding a weight plate isometrically, on the outer thigh instead of a band).

 

Bent over external rotations

This exercise is one of my favourites. In Tennis, the serve is considered a ‘high powered movement’ and strong back muscles help decelerate the arm after ball contact is made, this exercise targets muscles such as the rear Deltoid, Rhomboids & Teres Major, which are placed under duress in the high powered movements. Squeezing the shoulder blades together helps with working the Rhomboids thus Scapular control and subsequent reduction in shoulder injuries.

As mentioned above these activities are a range of potential solutions. It is up to us to truly understand the problem, before implementing a solution this is the tricky part.

Many thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it!

Konrad McKenzie

Strength and Conditioning Coach

 

Liked This Blog?

You might like other blogs on this topic from APA:

APA review of the Middlesex Students S&C conference 2014

The Dubious Rise of the Corrective Exercise ”Pseudo-Physio” Posing as a Trainer- My thoughts

as well as two recommended articles:

This article on weak Glutes during Squatting

And this one on Exercise Modifications 

Do you feel that this would be a perfect time to work on the weak links that you have been avoiding? The things that you know you should be doing that you keep putting off? Would you like us to help you with movement screening and an injury prevention program? Then click on the link below and let us help you!

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