3 Causes of Recurring Hamstring Injuries
Check out Nick's latest article on Stack Magazine's website.
3 Causes of Recurring Hamstring Injuries
If you haven't already read part one, then check that out first. Aside from the overview in part one, here are some other key points I took away from PRI's Postural Respiration.
*The diaphragm often gets stuck acting as a postural muscle instead of a respiratory muscle when things are out of whack/position. Position needs to be restored and diaphragm needs to restore its respiratory function.
*Right hemidiaphragm pushes air into the left lung and left into the right lung. Since we favor our right hip and have our liver on the right, we have an easier time getting air into the front of our left chest wall and a harder time getting it into our right anterolateral chest wall (mentioned this in part one). We need to get air into our left posterior mediastinum (posterior thorax) and right chest wall better. An important component of making this happen is developing our left abs (obliques) to help balance out the stronger right diaphragm.
*We often need to hypoinflate left ribs and hyperinflate right ribs; maximize exhalation on left and inhalation on the right and alternate.
*Neutrality is found when the diaphragm is contracting without the expense of extension and there are smooth transitions between left and right during gait. (Someone with an anterior tilted pelvis and hyperlordosis in the low back will tend to extend excessively to breathe, leading to unwanted back stress).
*Underneath every symmetrical movement is an asymmetrical challenge. I.e even if you are doing barbell squats bilaterally, there is still a war going on between left and right underneath that double leg squat. This supports my belief that bilateral and unilateral training should have a good balance in a program to keep things in check as doing only bilateral work will ultimately lead to an overpowering side (can you guess which one).
*Positions proceed patterns. To change a pattern, we need to reposition first. For example, if a muscle is not firing correctly or a muscle is inhibiting another muscle, we need to check position first because without proper positioning, neuromuscular patterning/firing will be off. If we restore position and THEN there is a neuromuscular problem, we can deal with it. Same story with movement in general. Until we get control of our pelvis and ribs, movement won't be ideal.
*The sphenoid, sacrum and sternum are the base points that all positioning branches off of.
*Modern day ergonomics lock us into the patterns mentioned earlier. We need to get out of them.
*Since the left brain has more responsibilities for speech and language and controls the opposite side of the body, the right upper extremity becomes dominant with communication, development and growth. This pattern needs to be balanced with neurologic and muscular activity on the left.
*The normal imbalances mentioned need to be regulated by reciprocal function with walking, breathing and turning. When they are not, weakness, instability and musculoskeletal pain often results. “Balancing muscle activity around the sacrum (pelvis), the sternum (thorax) and the sphenoid (middle of the head) through a PRI approach best positions multiple systems of the human body for appropriate integrated asymmetrical function.” This quote is taken from the PRI manual and sums up a real good point. It is a matter of being positioned well enough to work effectively in our normal asymmetrical state. This is what neutral means. Many people (including myself at first) get confused when they talk about neutral. Neutral does not mean symmetrical. It means being able to control and function optimally with the normal asymmetries that our body has and is supposed to have while avoiding overcompensations, pain and performance detriments.
*Being out of position can often stem from neurological reasons. For example, if you experience some kind of trauma whether it be an injury, an event such as a car accident or abuse, your body will generally go into sympathetic fight or flight mode. When you go sympathetic, your body has a good chance of falling deeper into these positional patterns mentioned earlier. So, you might be out of position (i.e. left AIC pattern or PEC pattern) as a result of your fight or flight response. I actually have a client who was doing well improving her left AIC/right BC pattern (shifted right, pelvis rotated left side forward, poor apical expansion on the right, left rib flare, etc.) and getting rid of pain nicely. She then got into a car accident and she went backwards, getting back into her old habits again. This was most likely a sympathetic response from the accident. A month after the accident doing the appropriate exercises and drills, she is better than ever. It is a very fascinating phenomena.
*Everything from vision to in uterine position can influence asymmetrical habits and patterns. Take someone who has had Lasik eye surgery and you will probably see some changes in muscle tone in their back, balance and certain patterns since their brain now has a changed sensory input with the improved vision and depth perception.
*A flat thoracic spine will result in an unstable scapula. Until flexion is restored, many scap exercises will not be as effective. In my experience and past learning, its usually been about improving thoracic extension. Many people actually do need better thoracic flexion.
*We need to get serratus anterior, low trap and tricep functioning optimally so that we can reach without excessive spinal/trunk rotation and maintain a stable position of our ribs and spine
*After digging into this stuff, I am amazed at how many people I see out in public standing on their right hips, with their left legs crossed into external rotation and/or right legs crossed into adduction/internal rotation, right shoulders lower and so forth. These patterns start to emerge right in front of your eyes. The assessments I have been doing (didn't cover this specifically in this article) continue to follow suit with much that the base courses cover as well.
In conclusion, it was a great course and on top of the things mentioned here, I picked up some great manual techniques and exercises to help facilitate better breathing function in people. I look forward to exploring the rest of their courses and deepening my understanding of the complex and asymmetrical body that we as humans live with. There is always so much to learn.
If you'd like to dig deeper, I'd highly recommend looking up stuff by Bill Hartman, Zac Cupples, Patrick Ward and Eric Oetter to name a few. They all have some brilliant insight with this material and have been studying it longer than I. Of course, you can also go to the source at posturalrestoration.com Thanks for reading.
(This picture will make sense later)
I recently took a great course put on by the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) called Postural Respiration (actually a few months ago; its just taken me forever to get to this article with my oh so crazy schedule). PRI holds multiple courses that deal with analyzing, treating and dealing with imbalance in systems of the body. The main idea behind their practices is the fact that the human body is asymmetrical by nature. No human being is meant to be perfectly identical side to side. Some main facts about our static design show this: We have a liver in our right abdominal cavity, a larger hemi-diaphragm on the left, a pericardium and heart that is on the left and three lobes on our right lung versus two on our left. Because of these major static asymmetrical design components, we develop dynamic asymmetries that come about with our everyday functions.
We tend to favor and stand on our right hip with our left pelvis rotated forward (right hip becomes adducted/internally rotated and left becomes abducted/externally rotated), crunch down on our right trunk/ab wall, and rotate our upper thorax to the left to counteract the pelvic rotation to the right, creating left anterior rib flare and right posterior rib hump. They classify specific patterns that we fall into as Left AIC (anterior interior chain), PEC (posterior exterior chain), BC (brachial chain, usually right bc) and other patterns up into the head/neck/face and vision. I'm not going to get into details of these for the purposes of this article but they basically specify certain chains of muscles that are overactive or inhibited with different positions we get stuck in, in most cases right being different than left.
Continuing on, with our liver on the lower right and heart on the upper left, we tend to get air into our left chest wall better than our right. We have more lymphatic drainage on the left. Left and right parts of the brain control different sides and areas of the body. The list goes on. We are asymmetrical animals. This is normal.
Ok so what is the purpose of analyzing and treating people then if this is normal?
With these asymmetries present, we still need to have the ability keep things “in check” and function effectively for activities of daily living and sport. Looking at gait (they base everything off of this), we need to reciprocally get into and out of our left and right hip with adequate rotation and movement of our thorax, ribs and extremities. Right hip and left arm move/work together, left hip and right arm together, etc. etc. Problems come about when we lose the ability to keep things in check and can no longer get out of that right hip and fully into the left as we move. We get stuck on the right and in a half assed attempt to make the left work, we jack the left hip out of place and activate stabilizers on the right side excessively to try and stay upright and functional. This carries up to multiple compensations in the abdominals, thorax, shoulders, head, neck, face and eyes and down to the knees, ankles and feet.
At the root of all of this is our breathing; our diaphragm function. Breathing is what controls everything else in the body. If our breathing is off, something else is pretty much guaranteed to suck. If something else sucks, then you better believe that even something else is going to start sucking. You get the idea. When our pelvis is out of position (left side forward, shifted right) our thorax rotates the opposite way in an attempt to get ourself somewhat centered. When this happens, our right ribs tend to get stuck in a state of exhalation and our left ribs in a state of inhalation (look at rib flare). When we don't get air into our right chest wall due to this occurence, our right shoulder gets out of position and compensations, pain and injuries can then occur there, such as losing internal rotation on the right shoulder and losing horizontal abduction on the left shoulder. This is not a situation where “stretching” would be needed to gain internal rotation. Simply repositioning the ribs and sternum and restoring airflow into the right chest wall will allow IR to return on its own. I have gotten multiple clients back to full IR without touching their shoulder since I've started experimenting with this stuff.
Again, breathing function and mechanics are at the root of all of this. Many people, in our society especially, tend to get stuck in a hyper inflated state of constant tension, never fully exhaling and never fully relaxing. Their brains get stuck in sympathetic fight or flight mode, leading to excess tension in muscles, nerves and organs throughout the body; hello back and neck pain. Instead of having a zone of apposition (ideal alignment between ribs, pelvis and diaphragm to get optimal airflow with inhalation and exhalation), many develop a “zone of anxiety" where hyperventilation and panic lives. Without proper breathing, our brains freak out and start causing chaos in our muscles, nerves, joints and movement. Restoring full exhalation allows us to get back towards parasympathetic, rest and relax mode or at least somewhere closer to the middle.
Parasympathetic (Rest & Relax)----------Sympathetic (Fight or Flight)
Some people just need to breathe, period. Some need to get air into their right chest wall better. Some need to stop using their neck muscles to breathe. Some need to stop breathing with all belly and get their sides and back involved. Some need a combination of all of these things. Bottom line is: breathing is the key to many, many things that are kind of a big deal. You know, like brain function, blood ph levels, emotional stress, organ function, movement, joint alignment and position, walking, fatigue, sports performance, pain, relationships, sex, crushing heavy weights. Cool things like that!
So, if your pelvis and ribs are out of position, breathing will be off and if your breathing is off, pelvis and ribs will probably have an easy time being out of position, and if all of this is happening, other things are going to suck. Restore position, restore breathing and you will be golden (and less things will suck).
This is just the surface of a nutshell of what is all covered with these courses and their research and study. Specific assessments, treatments and exercises are used to identify exactly what issues someone is having (that is usually causing pain) and to improve the problem at hand and get people back to neutral. (Neutral meaning we can function effectively without excessive compensation; there will still be some natural, normal asymmetries no matter what). In my next post, I will go over some other key points that I took away from the course.
I recently took a NeuroKinetic Therapy course in Phoenix (actually back in October; I've just been slacking on this article :) and I would like to give a little review on my thoughts on this among some other things.
NKT is a therapy protocol created by David Weinstock and is something I have looked into for awhile now. It is based around manual muscle testing and motor control theory. In a nutshell, motor control theory works like this: The Motor Control Center (which can be found in the cerebellum of the brain) takes in information from the limbic system on what is needed and then the cerebral cortex gives direction on how to give/get what is needed before it passes this info along to the spine and musculoskeletal system, which then do and accomplish the task at hand. “The Motor Control Center is stimulated by a muscle or function failure.” (NKT intro)
If we look at a baby learning to stand or an adult learning to squat correctly, there are many failed attempts to get the pattern correctly before it is done right. The MCC will light up with each failure. This center organizes all body movement and patterns and it can learn new patterns like squatting, and it can also create dysfunctional patterns in response to different kinds of trauma. When you finally learn the proper way to squat or that baby finally learns to stand, the successful information is programmed into the MCC. On the other hand, when someone gets injured, dysfunctional patterns can get stored. In his book, David uses whiplash as an example. With whiplash, the various neck extensor muscles often get very tight and painful. You can massage and stretch them all day but will often have no improvement. Why does this happen? After the injury, the Motor Control Center now “thinks” that the neck flexors are weak and vulnerable; therefore, it stays locked into the extensors to support the head and protect the joints around it. I would go farther to say that dysfunctional patterns don't always require an injury to get locked into the MCC. Using the above example, if someone trained their MCC to squat improperly for any length of time, the dysfunctional pattern will be stored and compensations will come about. If someone uses mostly machines in their training, poor motor control patterns can develop since unnatural muscle firing patterns and poor coordination patterns are trained. If someone sits at a desk all day and then gets up and goes to workout, poor patterns can develop if anterior shoulder and hip muscles are overactive from being in a shortened state all day. The list goes on. To sum things up, the Motor Control Center governs our movement patterns and it governs the firing of the hierarchy of muscles that accomplish these patterns.
All that being said, there are multiple patterns of compensation that develop from injury, poor posture/positioning (which creates undetected microinjuries) and poor movement in general. The most common relationships that are looked at with NKT are core, antagonist, synergist and kinetic chain relationships. With a core relationship, spinal/trunk muscles compensate for weakness in an extremity. For example, your lumbar erectors might be overactive and painful because of a weak or inhibited low trap. With an antagonist relationship (most common), muscles that oppose one another have problems. For example, your psoas is overactive in relation to an inhibited, non firing glute (psoas flexes the hip and glute extends it) With a synergistic relationship, muscles that work together to accomplish a task are out of whack. For example, your psoas is inhibited by your rectus femoris (both work together to flex the hip). With a kinetic chain relationship, muscles that work in sequence or along the same fascial or functional line are out of sync. If you are familiar with Thomas Myers' Anatomy Trains stuff (which you should be), this will make sense to you. For example, your neck extensors could be overactive due to your soleus not doing much. Since everything from the bottom of your foot up to the top of your head is connected with the superficial back line, anything along this posterior chain can develop compensation. Hamstrings and lumbar erectors compensating for lazy glutes, calf muscles compensating for lazy glutes or intrinsic foot muscles and any number of patterns like this are possible. All of these relationships are basically like that situation in college or high school when you had that annoying group member who didn't do jack squat to help out at all with the project. You and your other group members were then angry because the lazy one didn't do anything and then expected to get credit. Pssh.. With these relationships, one muscle is that annoying kid while the others are the angry ones working overtime to do the lazy one's job.
So basically, NKT is all about figuring out what muscles are facilitated and what muscles are inhibited based on these different relationships and pain. There are tons of specific muscle tests that are done to see if different muscles are A. Firing, B. Strong and C. Endurable. If someone comes in with anterior shoulder pain (many do), we would muscle test this area first, (lets say anterior delt) and see if it tests strong or weak. If it tests strong, we then would think about possible relationships in the area to see what might be inhibited and thus, causing anterior delt to be overactive and painful. Personally, I would look at different movement/performance screens and tests to get an idea of where I wanna go with things and then go into the NKT testing but for the purposes of simplification lets look at the most common relationships first, antagonistic.
If anterior delt is a problem, we can check posterior delt, lat, infraspinatus, etc. Since anterior delt flexes, adducts, horizontally adducts and internally rotates the shoulder, we would think about muscles that do the opposite (hence the listing of samples I just made). If we find that posterior delt tests weak, we would then find a localized spot on anterior delt (usually the site of an adhesion that causes their pain), tension it and recheck the posterior delt. If posterior delt now tests strong, we conclude that anterior delt was inhibiting posterior delt. NKT calls the process of tensioning that localized spot on the facilitated muscle therapy localization. It allows you to see what is truly inhibiting what. When that posterior delt tested weak, the Motor Control Center was stimulated and we have a window to store a new pattern. By then using TL to see if our spot on the anterior delt is inhibiting the posterior delt, we can move forward with treatment. So, we would then release the anterior delt (I would probably use ART) and then retest the post delt. If it now tests strong, we have successfully reprogrammed the MCC. The catch is we now have to frequently hit this pattern to get it ingrained in our brain; otherwise, things will go back to the way they were. In my opinion, we also need to reintegrate this new firing pattern into full body compound movement. In this case, we could train something like pushups or some press variation.
If we went the synergistic route, we could check biceps, pec major, finger extensors, etc. in relation to the anterior delt. I have personally seen anterior delt being overactive because of weak/inhibited finger extensors multiple times since I've taken this course. These are all examples of muscles that work together to accomplish different tasks. If we went the core route, we might see a thoracic muscle that is out of whack in relation to anterior delt, such as longissimus thoracis. There is no set route to go so you need to know your functional anatomy, get some experience dealing with these types of imbalances and then solve each puzzle as it comes your way. Its actually pretty fun and really challenges your thought process.
Overall, I really enjoyed the course and it really expands on some things I was already doing. With a variety of imbalances being so common and so many people coming in with random aches and pains, NKT gives some great tools to help assist with treatment and exercise prescription. I think that it works most effectively when combined with other assessment tools and I really like that they come out and say that this is a great “tool” to combine with other “tools.” Relationships and assessments that can be done with NKT get much deeper than what was mentioned here but I wanted to give an decent overview of things.
I also took an SFMA course (Selective Functional Movement Assessment) last year, which basically looks at fundamental human movement patterns and breaks down dysfunction and pain with those patterns. Combining things that I see with movement from SFMA, FMS patterns and multiple other assessment modalities that I have picked up over time with the manual muscle testing of NKT has been very effective for me. Combining an effective treatment like ART (Active Release Techniques) and effective exercise prescription with assessments like these takes things even farther. Basically, if a movement pattern is dysfunctional, I can break down that pattern and then see what kinds of muscle firing relationships are a part of that pattern in order to most effectively correct things. I can treat what needs to be treated and then program the right exercise to get back to good again.
Taking things a step farther, I just went through PRI's Myokinematic (Postural Restoration Institute) home study videos and will soon be traveling to Indy to take their Respiratory course. With PRI, they look at common patterns of asymmetry that the human body often displays and base much of their assessment and treatment on positioning. I will expand on this more in the near future after I do the breathing course but just the other day I was doing some NKT testing on a client who was getting some posterolateral left hip pain. I found that her left posterior glute medius and tfl (important muscles on the outside of your hip) were inhibiting her left quadratus lumborum (important spine and pelvic stabilizer which she coincidentally used to have problems with) and that she was standing with her right hip hiked up. These are all things that are found with a common PRI pattern known as Left AIC (again, will expand on this soon) where people get stuck in their right hip with their right ab wall overactive and left outer hip overactive among other things. So, my NKT testing led me to a PRI pattern. When I looked at her forward flexion, which can be found with the SFMA stuff, there was some dysfunction there as well. Her pelvic positioning affected her firing pattern and her movement and vice versa. The point I am trying to make is that all of these different assessment processes, techniques, etc. at some point come together and complement each other. The body is a complex thing and regardless of what protocols or modalities you use to figure out your treatment or training, you are still looking at the body. I believe that the more tools you can have at your disposal, the more effective you can be at improving optimal performance of the body. I also believe that these modalities I mentioned are some of the most powerful and logical paths out there and am beyond excited to see how much better I can get at helping people as I continue to master them. (Or at least try to master them; don't know that its possible to ever fully master any of this stuff since the body is so amazing with how it works)
In conclusion, if you are looking for a powerful assessment tool to help you more effectively perform manual therapy on clients or more effectively prescribe exercises, definitely look into NKT. If you are not a professional in these fields but have pain or some kind of issue related to the things discussed, there is probably an answer for your troubles. This all ties into my basic philosophy: the cause of your issues is hardly ever at the site of trouble. You need to look at POSITION, FIRING PATTERN and MOVEMENT. They are almost always all related and need to be evaluated to get the full picture. It is very uncommon for a muscle to actually be “tight” to a point where it needs to be stretched. In my experience, 9 times out of 10, a muscles seems “tight” because of issues with one of the big three listed above. Its overactive because it has no other choice. Restore position, reset the motor control pattern and/or fix the movement. If your therapist or trainer is not looking at these things, then find someone who is. This does not even touch on the realm of psychosomatic issues, which opens up a whole other door of possibilities and is a topic that some colleagues whom I respect greatly are beginning to dig deeper into. Time to go learn more; Be Awesome!
If you have been training with us for any reasonable amount of time, you have probably been cued to keep your head and neck in good position during any multitude of exercises, from squats to planks. If you have been training with somebody else who is good, you've probably been cued similarly :) If you have been training with somebody else or yourself, you may not have a clue what I am talking about but this is important stuff so read on!
Head and neck alignment is extremely important, whether you are talking about basic standing posture or mid exercise. When we look at our cervical spine, we have 7 vertebrae. The upper 2 vertebrae and the muscles around them function differently than the lower 5 vertebrae (bottom of C2 to top of T1), with the former rocking and tilting the skull/head and the latter moving and positioning the rest of the neck. That being said, they all work/move together to flex, extend, rotate and side bend the head and neck. Any time the head is positioned forward excessively, as seen in forward head carriage, the region of the upper 2 cervical spine is compressed as the head cocks back in order to keep the body upright, Much of the lower region is then excessively stretched and slacked. This is bad not only because of the effects it has on the head and neck, but also because of the effects it has the rest of the way down the body.
If the head is out of position, the thorax is then pushed back, which will cause the ribs to be out of position, disrupt breathing and stress the mid and low back; all undesirable things to have happen. In response to this, the pelvis will tilt forward and the low back will over extend, causing even more low back stress and hip issues. This all occurs in order to keep the body upright and centered in space. The body always finds a way to "right" itself. So when something is off up top or down low in the feet, compensations occur each joint up or down to help keep things upright and level as much as possible. This picture sums it up pretty well and simply. The only thing it does not show is the cocking back of the head that usually occurs.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. You can imagine what might happen if your head or neck are out of position during a squat or a pushup. If it distorts positioning in a standing posture, you better believe that it will cause dysfunction with movement and in turn, hurt performance. So, next time we cue your head position during your workout, you will have a decent idea why. If you would like to prance around like an ostrich with your head way out in front of you, that is perfectly fine; just don't complain when things start hurting.
There are many things that contribute to this and that result from this, from muscular issues to breathing issues. If we look at the musculature of the neck region, we can divide things into front, sides and back (kind of). Starting with the front (anterior), we have the Sternocleidomastoid, more commonly just called the SCM. This muscle is responsible for neck flexion, rotation to the opposite side and some side bending. It is the most superficial, or outermost, muscle on the front of the neck and is often overactive in many people. When someone has forward head carriage, you can usually bet that their SCM will be overactive. This muscle also commonly compensates for weak abdominal, psoas and diaphragm muscles further on down the body. When someone works their ABZ with boatloads of crunches and situps, you'll often hear complaints of neck pain. Well guess what? Its because they are compensating like crazy with their SCM to do the job that the rectus abdominis (six pack muscle) is supposed to be doing.
Deep to, or beneath, the SCM are the deep neck flexor muscles, the longus colli and capitis. While the SCM typically will pull the head forward in front of the body, these deeper muscles will pull the chin back in towards the throat and promote a good head and neck posture. They are very commonly weak in many people, especially those with neck and breathing issues. They also run along the same line of fascia as the diaphragm and psoas muscles, which all should ideally work together to provide a solid, deep base of stability for the rest of the body to work off of. There are also multiple small muscles in this area that control movement of the various bones of the jaw, called the infra and suprahyoids. For the purposes of keeping this article simple, we'll leave them out of the discussion.
Moving to the back side, we can look at muscles that control the different cervical sections mentioned above (C1-2 vs C3-7). The suboccipitals (rectus capitis major and minor, oblique capitis superior and inferior) control the rocking and tilting of the head and neck w/ movement of the upper cervicals. With forward head carriage, they will cock the skull back and become overactive and painful, often leading to headaches and neck pain. Research shows that these muscles also have big implications with balance and body awareness. Though they are small little guys, they are extremely important. It has been shown that the rectus capitis minor even has connections with the dura mater of the brain. (Must be kind of a big deal)
Below here, we have layers of muscles that control extension of the rest of the neck. Cervical erectors (further broken down to iliocostalis cervicis, longissimus cervicis and capitis and spinalis cervicis) mainly help extend the neck, splenius capitis and cervicis help extend and rotate the head and neck to the same side, and transversospinalis (further broken down to rotatores, multifidi and semispinalis cervicis) muscles help extend and rotate to the opposite side. These guys cover the gist of it. We also have levator scapulae and upper traps branching off to the sides from the cervical spine to control both the shoulder girdle and the neck (elevation and rotation to the opposite side as well as downward and upward rotation of the scapula respectively), which are usually overactive in this situation (though not always).
Between the front and back, we have the scalenes, which can be divided into anterior, middle and posterior. These help to side bend, rotate to the same side and flex the head and neck. They are very important with upper rib positioning and overall neck stability, and should assist with breathing. (ASSIST not take over)
Note how many different angles the various muscles on the neck run, front to back, side to side, curving this way and that. It is a very complex area of the body and you can see that each "section" is, in all reality, connected.
To sum the basic situation up. When someone has poor neck alignment, or forward head carriage for the purposes of this article, the SCM's and suboccipitals will be overactive and the deep neck flexors and lower cervical extensors will be inhibited and/or weak (sometimes with levator and/or upper trap being overactive). Throw some rotation into the picture and you will be looking at side to side differences. We can go further down and look at overactive pec minors with underactive low traps, elevated versus depressed shoulder girdle, etc. For now, we'll keep it at the neck but just know that the effects carry on down the whole body and that there will be some variation depending on the individual at hand.
The bottom line is this: Keep your neck packed in alignment with the rest of your spine and trunk and you will feel better, move better and perform better.
In conjunction with this, proper breathing patterns and diaphragm function are also very important to help keep muscles in the neck region balanced out appropriately. Without good diaphragm function and solid rib expansion, rib elevation will cause muscles in the neck, especially the scalenes, to overwork and flare up with inflammation and pain. This can obviously affect overall alignment and is a very important deal. Heck, though I haven't gotten into it yet, vision issues can also have influence and be influenced by this stuff. It really is pretty amazing.
Finally, talking about this anatomy stuff is all wonderful but when it comes down to it, you need to know how this looks in action, and this is the main thing I want to get across with this post.
This shows the basic good and bad positions to be in up top. Notice how the head and neck placement affect the rest of the shoulder girdle. This is also an exercise/drill that can be done to fire and/or strengthen the appropriate muscles either upright, inclined or face down.
This shows improper and proper neck/head position during a squat. Notice how my back and hips are affected with the different head/neck placement.
This shows improper and proper neck/head position during a deadlift. Again, notice how it affects the rest of the kinetic chain.
This all carries over to multiple activities. Hopefully this gives you some good ideas to help you out with life and training! If you struggle with this issue, I recommend starting out with some "chin tuck" drills like I show in the first video. Just do a few sets of 15-20 reps daily, starting straight up and then working to an incline and eventually face down. Next, start consciously drilling the proper positioning when you squat, deadlift, do pushups, etc.
When it comes down to it, you have two choices. Be an ostrich or be a Beast with a solid and stable neck. The choice is yours.
Who is ready to get motivated and amped up today?!!!
I just finished reading a great inspirational book called “Three Feet from Gold,” by Greg Reid and Sharon Lechter. I usually try to read at least one success/business book each month and this was a very fun and motivating read. The principles that the book goes through are based off of the classic “Think and Grow Rich,” one of my favorite books of all time and sure to be found on pretty much any successful person's top five list. Three Feet puts these principles into story form and goes through the adventure of a character who is initially struggling with his life, and follows him as he changes his outlook and begins to transform his life into happiness and success. It follows him as he travels around interviewing many different successful people (these are real people who gave real insight for the book) about their own stories and wisdom; stories about overcoming adversity with passion and commitment to achieve success and happiness. In a nutshell, if you read this and are not totally motivated to go full force into working on a passion or goal of yours, then I don't know what to tell you.
Anyhow, the book gives out principles of success as the story goes on. It is my goal with this article to highlight some of my favorites that I took from it and elaborate on how they can potentially help you or how they've played a part in my journey thus far.
The first one is two points that I am combining because they go together well.
“The most common cause of failure is quitting. Before great success comes, you will surely meet with temporary defeat.”
This is as straight forward as it comes and something that one would think would be common sense; however, the majority of people out there continually let temporary defeats beat them and they quit before they even give themselves a chance. Fitness is a great example here. Someone starts working out. Lets call him Bob. Bob wants to lose 10 pounds of fat and build some muscle. He trains for one month and he is no better. He gets frustrated and claims that working out doesn't work and he can't get in shape. 3 months go by and he again decides to give this fitness thing a shot. This time he works out for 2 months and drops a couple pounds of fat. Well with two whole months of training, he should surely be down at least 10, right?! He quits again because he just can't seem to make it happen. Think about this: What if he hadn't quit for 3 months and had been training for the full 6 months without a break. Imagine where he could have been then. This is what TONS of people do and it goes into another great point from the book.
“To succeed, you must have STICKABILITY.”
Whether you are talking about reaching a fitness goal or succeeding in a business venture, this is essential. “It takes years to become an overnight success.” Being in great shape takes more than days or months. It takes years of dedication and perseverance. When people aren't magazine material after 2 months, they lose all hope and just quit. If they would stay with it, they would blow past their initial goal before the next time they decide to start over again after quitting. Careers and businesses take time to develop and grow. When I first started out training people after college, I had around 2 to 3 in home clients, with not a lot of income. I then started working out of a gym and GRADUALLY built up clientele. I KNEW that I wasn't going to have my own facility with boatloads of clients coming through the door in the first month or even the first FEW YEARS. However, I had an end goal in mind and knew that I would make things happen. Fast forward to current day. We just passed our one year anniversary at my facility and we have a long ways to go with it. If we do a little bit each day to get better, it will compound over time. I'm sticking with it.
I overheard one of my coaches the other day, Dan Zwirlein, talking to some clients about his journey to where he is at with his training and body. Dan is a pretty big guy (and lean) and probably one of the best lifters in the country. Many people probably just assume that he is just naturally “big.” Dan explained how its taken years of hard work and dedication with training and diet to get where he is at. He has stickability; and it shows.
“The Knowing- There is a big difference between believing in something and knowing it.”
As I stated just above, I KNEW that I was going to make my dream happen. I had and have confidence in my abilities in this field and continue to better myself every day. So even though I wasn't making tons of money or training superstar athletes right away, I just kept honing my craft and kept doing what I'm passionate about: helping the great clients and amazing people that I did have. If you do that good enough, then more people are going to follow. When I had my injury that kept me out of competition and heavy lifting for awhile, I KNEW that I'd get back to a high level again. I did everything possible to get past the injury and come back stronger than ever. When Dan injured his shoulder and was told he might not be able to lift again, he never once thought about quitting. He worked his ass off to get back under a bar and never looked back. Professional athletes don't just magically end up in a prime time game. They have a vision and a dream and they do everything necessary to make that vision a reality. Every single successful fat loss client that I've ever worked with KNEW they'd transform their bodies and lives. Don't just believe, Know.
If you are venturing into your journey of transforming your body, KNOW that you will succeed. The mind controls everything. If you know that you're going to make it, you will. Want to Deadlift 2 or maybe even 3 times your bodyweight? KNOW that you are going to get there and friggin smash it. Successful people in any endeavor don't know what doubt is. They just go to war and don't look back.
“Seek counsel, not opinions, and then pass it on.”
There is a great point with this one about the difference between opinions and counsel. “Opinions are usually based on ignorance, or lack of knowledge, whereas counsel is based on wisdom and experience.” Lets go back to our friend Bob. While he is on his great quest to get in shape, he has plenty of negative “friends” giving their OPINIONS about A. how he is a clown for trying to get in shape, B. how he can't get in shape; its just too hard C. how he needs to run tons of miles and do lots of cardio to get in shape (insert any other unfounded misinformation about training here). Most people that he knows give their opinions, which have no rationalized knowledge or experience behind them.
What Bob needs to do is seek out COUNSEL from an expert who A. KNOWS that Bob can reach his goal, B. Has actual KNOWLEDGE, WISDOM and EXPERIENCE with training and truly understands how to get him from point a to point b, and C. Supports him on his quest rather than ridicules him for trying to do something positive with his life. Once he does this, he needs to pass on his new knowledge and wisdom to others who are in his original position. Not only will this help those who he counsels, but it will help him to grow and get even better himself. I've learned this first hand through teaching interns and doing continuing ed material.
Back to the ridicule point.....I can't begin to fathom why some people have close family and friends who literally make fun of them for trying to change their lives and get in shape (or start a business or make a career change, etc.) It is absolutely ridiculous yet it happens all of the time, which brings me to my next point.
“Run from people with negative attitudes.”
“People take in the nature and the habits and the power of thought of those with whom they associate in a spirit of sympathy and harmony.” In other words, if you hang around negative deadbeats, you will probably be somewhat of a negative deadbeat yourself. Want to be a successful, positive person? Then hang around other successful, positive people. Want to get freakishly strong? Then train with freakishly strong people. Want to run a great business? Spend some time picking the brains of people who run great businesses. I think you catch the trend.
If the people you surround yourself with most do nothing but bring you down and stress you out, then maybe its time to change who you surround yourself with. Whether you are trying to change your body, your career, a relationship, etc. you have to be surrounded by the right people or it won't happen. I have been fortunate enough to have many great mentors and many great colleagues, friends and partners over the years and I would not be where I am today without their help. If someone has a negative attitude, I run. If someone comes into my facility with a negative attitude, we try to change it. If its the rare case where we can't change it, they're gone. One negative attitude can disrupt ten positive attitudes. Can't have it; plain and simple.
“Accentuate the positive and illuminate the negative.”
This is a big one. Many people tend to do just the opposite. They shun the positive aspects of a venture aside and accentuate the negative things. I have worked with hundreds of clients over the years and a common thing that I tend to see with people who are still on the beginning end of their training is that they focus on all of the things that they still HAVEN'T accomplished and totally disregard all of the great things that they HAVE accomplished.
For example, I might get someone who trains for 3 to 4 months and loses, lets say, 5% bodyfat and has gained good strength on most of their big movements, like front squats, deadlifts and pushups. They have also reached 6 new short term goals with their nutrition and are making great progress overall. However, instead of appreciating these good things that, if given the chance to compound, will turn into amazing, great, awesome things, they only look at the fact that their scale weight (oh dear don't get me started) is only down 2 pounds, they still can't see their abz all the way, they don't feel perfect in those pants they bought, etc. etc. They focus on the things that they HAVEN'T accomplished.
What they need to do is appreciate all of the positive things that they HAVE accomplished, realize that there is still work that needs to be done and use it as motivation to CONTINUE to get better. As I said before, success doesn't happen overnight. I've been training myself for around 15 years and I've still got a ways to go; however, I am very proud of the things that I have accomplished while realizing there is still more for me to improve upon. It is a great journey that I embrace fully. I've been training clients in some capacity for 7 to 8 years and continually try to improve. I've had my own facility for just over one year and am happy with what I've accomplished while still appreciating the fact that there are many improvements to be made. Its all about mini victories and continual improvement. Appreciate the positives with what you have done but stay humble and strive for more at the same time.
We have some clients at our gym who I've worked with for multiple YEARS. They have literally transformed their bodies and lives. They appreciate what they've done. In light of that, they then find new goals to strive for and take things to another level. If you want to get to that other level, you need to appreciate each step and improvement that you make, because if all you do is dwell on what you haven't done, you will never get to that higher level.
KNOW that you will get there and that you are killing PR's and FEEL your body and your mind change and improve.
CHERISH the journey and become GREAT!
While there are a number of other things that I could cover from this motivational book, there is one more message I will use that really sums it all up. Give everyday your all and never quit on your dream or goal, because you just might be THREE FEET FROM GOLD.
Definitely give the book a read....And if you have any kind of goal or dream in mind, friggin go out tomorrow and start making it a reality. Nothing can stop you but yourself.
Here is the second part to a previous article written by Dan Zwirlein. Whatever your goals may be, proper nutrition is huge. If you didn't already read the first part, check it out with the link below. Take it away Dan!
In the first compliance article, I talked about why people have trouble seeing results from their prospective fitness programs. In review, this usually stems from what they are doing outside of the gym rather than inside the gym, and it has to do with their compliance/adherence to a nutritional plan. In this article, I want to expand on this idea and give more thoughts/tips on how to develop a more disciplined nutrition plan for better body composition.
A common question is “so then what do I eat?”, “what is healthy eating?” “what is considered clean eating?”. This is a hot topic in the nutrition today: what really is clean eating or what is healthy? Honestly, I don't think there is an accurate description of what clean eating is and if you asked someone to give you a formal definition, I don't think they could. That's one of the major flaws with the clean eating concept: it means something different to everyone. There was a very good article just written about this topic and I suggest everyone checks it out. You can find it here. Basically, the article debunks the notion of “clean” eating; meaning there aren't actually groups of clean and dirty foods respectively. For example, the body doesn't have different processes for digesting, utilizing, and storing nutrients from so called clean foods vs. dirty foods; i.e., fat from cookies isn't digested and stored differently than fat from avocado. Your body doesn't know the difference between the macro nutrients it receives from these different foods. Obviously, there is a difference between the complete nutritional profile of a cookie and a vegetable, and you shouldn't use this as an excuse to eat as much cookies and ice cream as you want even though it still fits your macro nutrient profile.
So what can we do with this information to make educated decisions about our nutrition? It doesn't really change anything but the mindset, meaning you still should concentrate on eating nutrient dense foods a majority of the time. The 90% rule still applies but now your outlook on those supposed cheat meals is different. There is nothing unhealthy with enjoying a treat for 10% of your meals IF it is planned properly and accounted for in your total caloric intake. This way you don't have to worry about it completely derailing your progress. Keep in mind though that something that is “unhealthy” might be “healthy” for someone else based on their goals or medical condition. Its all about the right context. HOWEVER, once again we are talking about 10% of your meals, which still means only about once a week. The biggest point I want to make is that your focus shouldn't be on the 10% of meals, it should be on the 90%. The other thing I want to emphasize is the fact that these are planned single meals and snacks that must fit within your weekly caloric intake, not all day binges that some suggest.
The 90% meals should be a combination of protein, fat, and carbs in ratios that help you reach your goals. For weight loss, that means about a gram of protein for every lb of your targeted body weight. (The same is true if you are trying to put on muscle) So if you weigh 200 lbs but you want to weigh 185 lbs you would consume about 185 grams of protein. Fat intake would be up to half of your protein intake and carbs will vary based on your goals and activity level. For example, someone trying to put on muscle mass or an athlete will need more carbohydrates in their diet than the average person looking for weight loss. These are all estimates and can be adjusted as needed; they are just a good basic guideline to start with.
The sources of your protein, fat, and carbs for the 90% of your meals should be your main focus. Whole food sources including quality meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables and certain healthy starches and grains (depending on the goal at hand). A good rule of thumb is if it didn't grow, run, fly, or swim then don't eat it. For most people starting out, this is a challenge just in itself. Changing 90% of their meals to some combination of these foods will be enough to make a large difference. This is why in the previous article I talked about making small progressive changes that can lead to long term habitual change. I want to make another point clear however: calories DO matter. This means that besides quality, the QUANTITY of food still needs to be monitored. It doesn't matter if you only eat things that I just mentioned, if you still eat too much you will not burn as much fat or lose as much weight, if at all.
What a typical meal should look like:
About a palm size portion of protein of your choice ( Grass fed Beef, Eggs, Chicken Breast, Pork, Salmon, etc., some type of vegetable, and a starch like a potato/sweet potato or some oats in equal portions. You should get your fats from the meat sources, eggs, avocados, and cook with things like grass fed butter, olive oil, or coconut oil.
This article is supposed to be about compliance right? So now lets talk about more ways to help with compliance within the framework of ideas I've been talking about. I think the best way to stay compliant within your 90% meals is to have a plan of attack and stick to the plan as much as you can. One of the best ways to stick to a nutritional plan is to limit your choices. Find a few meals that you like, are easy to make, and fit within the framework of your macro nutrient intake (carb, protein, and fats) and stick to them. There will always be ways to spice things up later or add more choices in. Limiting your choices early on helps you take the guessing work out of preparing food and inherently keeps you more disciplined because you only have a couple of meals to choose from. This also forces you to develop good habits. If you eat just about the same things everyday you can form a routine around these meals.
Preparing of multiple meals is also a great way to increase nutritional compliance. If you prepare all your meals ahead of time it keeps you on a plan, and like limiting your choices, you are forced to stay on your plan because the food is already prepared. A big barrier for a lot of people to stay compliant is meal preparation. There is work involved in preparation of meals, and when people are short on time or they just don't feel like cooking, they look for something quick and easy. What types of foods are usually quick and easy to make? Not usually things that fall into the grow, run, fly, or swim category.
Decrease the amount of times you are eating out. This goes hand in hand with preparing meals ahead of time, which will limit the need for eating out as much. Lets face it, as I already mentioned, most people don't enjoy meal prep so going out to eat or ordering something is an easy cop out; however, once you decide to go out your chances of sticking to a plan diminish quite a bit, because you really are no longer in complete control of what you are eating. It is easy to get off track when there are so many restaurant and menu choices out there. Not to mention, now you really are not in control of the portion sizes or what exactly is being used to cook the meal. By limiting the times you are out, you avoid temptation, stay on track, and best of all save money.
Limit alcohol consumption. This might be the biggest nutritional hurdle for a lot of people. They don't realize how many extra calories they are consuming just from alcohol alone. For some it means getting rid of half a day's worth or even a full days worth of meals in calories each week just by dropping alcohol consumption down! I am not saying to never drink alcohol, but it should be limited to a couple drinks a week or special occasions.
Drink Super Shakes. Even If you prepare all your meals ahead of time there will still be those situations where you need some nutrition in a pinch. Having a few go to super shakes that are quick and easy to make are a good way to stay on track and satiated until you have time to eat more whole foods. But remember, you shouldn't just live off of shakes, it is necessary to eat whole food as much as you can.
Find out what a super shake includes here.
If all else fails try preparing all your meals from a lean eating cook book. There are many good options out there these days but I would recommend:
Practical Paleo (Disclaimer: You would need to add in more carbs when using this one.)
4 hour chef ( Disclaimer: This is more than a cook book but a very interesting read.)
With this information in hand I don't think anyone should have a problem making some healthier choices, especially if you take the time to make a plan and follow through with it. Using just some of the tips I've outlined in these two articles should give you everything you need to be successful. The key is actually making the time not taking the time. You make time for things that are important to you and what's more important than your health?
"Yea I have IT band issues when I run." "I have IT band syndrome." "You should foam roll your IT band like every day man!" "IT banditis sucks!" "How do I like work my IT band so it gets better?" I hear and see crazy thoughts and ideas on this structure all of the time. IT Band issues and foam rolling the IT Band are pretty commonly tossed around topics nowadays. There are many misconceptions out there about what goes on with this band of tissue when there are problems and how “rolling it” actually affects it.
First, lets briefly look at what this band is. The Iliotibial band is a dense band of tissue that runs from the top of the iliac crest down to the tibial tubercle below the knee (just look at the name: ilium to tibia). The superior fibers of the glute max, the glute medius and the tensor fascia latae (tfl) all insert into this band and control the tension that is in the band. The band then runs down to the tibial tubercle while covering the majority of the vastus lateralis, the most lateral quad muscle. It functions to provide stability to the lateral portion of the pelvis, thigh and patella (it provides support so our patella doesn't fly sideways when we step). Every time we take a step, whether walking, running or whatever it is you like to do, these abductor muscles just mentioned, along with the rest of the band, provide support to the pelvis to prevent adduction and pelvic tilt. With any imbalances or movement dysfunction with gait, problems are likely to occur with this whole lateral region. We can go all the way up into the obliques and higher or lower if we want to get real in depth. This lateral hip and thigh is part of a lateral line of fascia that travels the length of the body from head to toe. For the purposes of this article, we shall stick with this particular region.
So, we have an idea of what this lovely structure does. Now, what happens when someone has problems with “stiffness” or pain in this region. There are a few different scenarios that are possible here.
When it comes down to it, there are various culprits that can cause issues in this region. I go through information and some basic rolling techniques in the following video.
Hope this give you guys some good insight and can help out with some problems you may have!
I am currently on a trip in Chicago to partake in my third Active Release Techniques course. This evening, I got a workout in at the hotel fitness center. While there, I observed as a “trainer” watched his client perform multiple exercises with terrible form or just useless exercises in general. He simply stood there with his arms crossed and did absolutely NOTHING the entire time. Not one bit or hint of coaching to speak of. Call me crazy but paying someone to stand there and stare at you is kind of a waste of money. I don't know if he was a hotel trainer or traveled with the client, or whatever. Whatever it was, it inspired me to write this article. As you probably already know, I take a lot of pride and have a lot of passion for what I do. The fact that there are tons of unqualified “fitness professionals” out there taking uneducated people's money and time really bothers me. I like to educate people so here's what I'm going to do with this article. Here are some of the most important things someone should look for when they are hiring a fitness or strength and conditioning professional. (Notice I didn't say personal trainer or trainer as I think those terms absolutely suck and do not begin to do a truly legit professional in this field justice) As I sit here next to my 18th floor hotel window looking over Chicago, I shall enlighten you. While this is definitely not an exhaustive list, I think it should give out some pretty important points.
2. They need to practice what they preach. While an academic and scientific education is very important, if you haven't spent years in the trenches learning under a bar, you are still going to suck training people and you probably have no business training people. The best professionals have a good blend of both academic knowledge and in the trenches experience. Bottom line: You gotta have both.
3. They should do a thorough screen and assessment. If you work with someone and they just start giving you random workouts right off the bat without evaluating your specific needs and limitations, then run for the hills. There is no way to know what someone needs to be doing with a program without an assessment. A good assessment is essential when it comes to developing a proper, individualized program to optimize goals being reached and injuries being prevented. The assessment might look at movement dysfunction (or lack thereof), muscle imbalances, appropriate performance tests, bodyfat, blood pressure, heart rate, posture/bodycomp photos and anything else deemed necessary for the client. These things obviously will vary depending on who you are talking about but the bottom line is that they should have some form of assessment to get you started.
4. They should design professional and rationalized programs. If your trainer simply picks random things for you to do each day, run for the hills. A properly designed, planned out program based on specific needs and progressions should always be a part of your training. Random training gets random results. Any good professional should be able to design great programs. If you don't even have one, then you are throwing money away. A good program should include appropriate soft tissue and mobility drills, appropriate strength training, appropriate conditioning/energy systems training and should address fundamental movement patterns (i.e. if you are spending an hour sitting on machines, stop wasting your time; though there are some that have their place for certain goals). If you don't have a good program, move on.
5. They should be engaged during all of your training. They should be analyzing movement, coaching you and teaching you how to move and perform exercises correctly. They should be able to explain the why behind everything that you do. I take pride in the fact that most of my clients could probably walk into any average gym and straight up school most of the trainers there. Every client that walks through our doors gets educated every time they come in. Ask them about why you are doing what you are doing. If they can't tell you or don't tell you to begin with, then get out now. If your trainer just stands there and does nothing but count reps and shout “ALL YOU” then move on.
6. They should be able to progress and regress exercises on the spot. If you are clearly struggling with something beyond the point of a little tweaking with coaching, then they should be able to regress to something more doable on the spot. If something is extremely cakeish then they should be able to progress you appropriately on the spot.
7. They should be professional. In addition to all of these things listed, if your coach shows up with a tank top, shorts and a backwards hat, they probably aren't a true professional. Most of the top notch coaches that I work with dress professionally with a nice looking sports polo, professional athletic pants and a clean cut appearance. Other professions dress as professionals, so should fitness pros. Having an uplifting, professional attitude is also essential. Changing mindsets is half the battle of training. They should have a positive mindset that you want to mirror.
In conclusion, if you are going to invest your time and money into improving your body and life, make sure you are doing it with someone who is truly qualified. You wouldn't take your car to a mechanic who doesn't understand how an engine works. You definitely shouldn't take your body to someone who doesn't know how it works. Hopefully, this can help you make some good decisions with your body and training.
Rosencutter Ultra Fitness