The “Extra Work” You Need For Athletic Success – Part 2

       

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Former Red Sox Pitcher Curt Schilling at the mound with a bloody sock evokes the extraordinary behavior we are attracted to. 

In sports,  extraordinary behavior (or the action that separates oneself from the ordinary) is popularly displayed as an athlete’s ability to triumph through pain. The image of professional baseball pitcher Curt Schilling at the mound with a bloody sock, or the  picture of Olympic Gymnast Kerri Strung’s wincing in pain while striking a pose moments after a heroic leg breaking performance reflect our obsession with individuals overcoming challenges and succeeding in spite of physical pain.  These monumental figures defy ordinary and embody an old simple societal saying – “No pain, No Gain”.  The value we place on these images shows that we are  not only proud supporters but attracted to the maxim “No pain, No gain”.  No other sport reflects this widely touted cliche better than American Football.

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Gold Medalist and Gymnast Kerri Strung definitely knows the motto “No Pain, No Gain”

Football after all is a physical sport characterized by individuals running with enough speed and producing enough force to inflict bone breaking consequences to one another. pr040130iAs fans interested in extraordinary individuals triumphing through pain we are heavily attracted to the sport of Football. In fact,  according to the Harris poll Professional Football is widely considered America’s number one sport (Poll, 2016).  However, the extraordinary displays of physically painful and triumphant episodes that imbues the sport we all love is also a large threat to it’s continued success. Every step one gains in the sport of football often leaves a  painful and palpable reminder of its physicality. This pain is generally reflected in the form of injury.  For the sport of football and the athletes  within it, for which we cheer and support, this injurious environment is a serious problem with long term consequences. The rate of injury has continued to raise eyebrows especially in the year 2017 as it has claimed many of the NFL’s most notable Football stars (Gagnon, B., (2017).

 

It is difficult to ascertain the rate of injury in professional football. However, in a 2009 study, The NCAA reported an injury rate of 8.1 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures (games and practices combined) in collegiate football. Researchers reported that just five years of football amassed over 40,000 injuries from 25 million athlete exposures.  These  investigators also demonstrated that the injury rate was likely to be the highest at the onset of football or during preseason activity (NCAA, 2009).

 

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Giants star receiver suffers season ending injury during the In-season football phase. 2017 – 2018  has claimed many of the NFL’s most notable Football stars

In this study,  the preseason  phase (period where football athletes begin to prepare for competitive play) reflected an injury rate  of 9.7 episodes per 1,000 athlete exposures. In addition, the  In – season  phase (football period where football athletes compete in competitive play) showed an  injury rate of 7.5 episodes per 1000 athlete exposures (NCAA,2009).  So as football athletes prepare for the competitive season during the In – season and preseason periods there is a notable prevalence of  injury and corresponding increase in pain that occurs.

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One of the most important steps you can take in preventing, limiting or managing pain and injury is treating muscle and myofascial tissue by targeting myofascial trigger points. 

While those who fandom sport, often champion athletes who gain and succeed in spite of pain and injury during competitive sport, movement specialists, trainers strength and conditioning coaches or those  interested in the preserving the health of athletes generally admonish against the occurrence of pain and injury for athletic success.  Instead, these athletic caretakers are more interested in scenarios where athletes are able to display their full potential without injury or pain.

This focus reflects the objective of the movement specialists, trainers and performance coaches who recognize the pain and injury that take place during the preparatory and regular phase of competitive football.

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Movement and Performance Specialists who work with athletes during competitive play understand the importance of training and treatment methods that can help prevent, limit or effectively manage the occurrence of pain /injury in sport.

In other words, those individuals who work with athletes during competitive play understand the importance of training and treatment methods that can help prevent, limit or effectively manage the occurrence of pain and injury in sport. This objective is not only an important measure for improving the potential for athletic success but also a necessary step in protecting the appeal and the integrity of sport – especially American Football.

Movement specialists who work with athletes during the competitive season acknowledge that one of the most important steps they can take in preventing, limiting or managing pain and injury is treating muscle and myofascial tissue by targeting myofascial trigger points.  Through this approach, movement specialists and performance coaches can help to improve movement potential, limit pain while also boosting athletic gains.

Limitation to movement can result from pain and/or mobility restrictions that are associated with the occurrence of  myofascial trigger points.  Researchers Simons, Travell, and Simons’ defined the myofascial  trigger point (MFTrP) as “…a hyper-irritable spot in skeletal muscle that is associated with a hypersensitive palpable nodule in a taut band (Mcpartland, Simons, 2006). This trigger point can also be present in muscle fascia or the”connective tissue network” that interconnects throughout the entire body. The myofascial trigger point can be caused or activated by a number of methods including acute or chronic injury to a muscle, tendon, ligament, joint, disc or nerve. (Simons, 2002).  However, of these methods the most common  is trauma to the muscle. This trauma maybe a direct injury to the muscle (such as a contusion or bruise) or as the result of an indirect injury such as muscle overload during prolonged poor posture (Resteghini, 2006).

 The result of trauma  to tissue can result in the formation of hyperirritable spots or adhesions that occur most frequently under the skin within the fascia layers. These spots can also occur within cell membranes, intracellularly, in and on muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, organs and elsewhere. In all cases, they involve a hardening, toughening or fibrosis of the body tissues. When viewed under a microscope, they appear as “relatively large, rounded, darkly staining muscle fibers (McPartland & Simmons, 2006) . 

trigger-points.jpg          The manifestation of trigger points can result in structural changes of muscle tissue by significantly increasing the diameter of a muscle fiber. Trigger points may result in tightness and shortening of the involved muscle resulting in a restricted range of stretch as well as an increased sensitivity to stretch (Resteghini, 2006).  In addition to structural changes, trigger points can disrupt tissue function. Authors note that a muscle with a trigger point may display weakness as well as pain (Resteghini, 2006).  This characteristic is one of the  many reasons why the presence of myofascial trigger points represents an impediment to mobility, flexibility, efficiency, muscle function or factors integral to athletic success. The threat of trigger points to an athlete’s movement and performance potential should be a concern as well as a method of approach for movement and performance specialists.  To understand why it is important to revisit the three pillars for which athletic potential s built upon or movement quality, physical capacity and athletic skill.

  Movement quality or the ability to move well is considered to be an important requisite for physical capacity and the ability to display athletic skill.  understanding the relative differences between these three factors for athletic success can provide further insight to the relationship of myofasical trigger points  to movement and athletic potential.

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Movement quality or the ability to move well is considered to be an important requisite for physical capacity and the ability to display athletic skill.

  Think of movement quality as the ability to get into a good low depth squat position.  Understanding an individuals limitation in a squat movement can involve movement specialists asking questions like  “Is the inability to produce a  low squat  due to structural limitations, learned behavior or soft tissue restrictions?  or “is a squat limiting mobility restriction of a particular joint  caused by past injuries/muscle length issues or tissue adhesions. 

Physical capacity represents the amount one can squat and or the power generated. Quality of movement can impact physical capacity by diminishing the potential range for producing or absorbing force. Thus, physical capacity is said to rest on an individual’s movement potential.

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Quality of movement can impact physical capacity by diminishing the potential range for producing or absorbing force

  Skill training is recognized as the ability to display sport technique. It can be recognize in a variety of ways such as the quality of evasiveness during a game, the ability to run a route, block or get out of a particular stance. Skill can be influenced by an athletes ability to move well (movement quality) and produce force (physical capacity).

  Leading movement experts note that when it comes to training athlete movement quality  must be acknowledge in order to produce a measurable impact on physical capacity, skill and athletic potential (Cook 2010). In other words any limitation in movement capacity is a limitation to athletic potential. Hence, the deficiencies, dysfunctions or mobility issues that result or threaten the limitations of our athlete’s movement ability should be a chief priority in our training objective if we wish to improve our athlete’s sport performance abilities.  

As movement and performance specialist our focus should aim to correct those factors ahead of or in conjunction with training that  centers on our athlete’s physical capacity or skill. This understanding provides a framework for our approach to the football inseason, or a period marked with a relative increase injury/pain and as well as a corresponding presence of myofascial trigger points.  This heightened focus on diminishing pain inducing and movement restricting factors such as trigger points during the in season can help provide or maintain clear perception and behavior and better motor control for our football athletes. This strategy can help both the athlete and the sport of football to make great gains with little to no pain – A motto that I can certainly support.

 

References

Cook, G. (2010), Movement: Functional Movement Systems: Screening, Assessment, and Corrective Strategies. Santa Cruz, CA: On Target Publications

Datalys Center, Inc. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.datalyscenter.org/

Gagnon, B., (2017). NFL 2017 All-Injured Team is loaded with Pro Bowl players at halfway point of season. Retrieved from https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/nfl-2017-all-injured-team-is-loaded-with-pro-bowl-players-at-halfway-point-of-season/

Mcpartland, J. M., & Simons, D. G. (2006). Myofascial Trigger Points: Translating Molecular Theory into Manual Therapy. Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 14(4), 232-239.

Poll, T. H. (2016). Pro Football is Still America’s Favorite Sport. Retrieved from http://www.theharrispoll.com/sports/Americas_Fav_Sport_2016.html

Simons, D. G. (2002). Understanding effective treatments of myofascial trigger points. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 6(2), 81-88.

Resteghini, P. (2006). Myofascial Trigger Points: Pathophysiology and Treatment with Dry Needling. Journal of Orthopaedic Medicine, 28(2), 60-68.

 

Author:

1504264_10101963564946910_1977472533_oDan Liburd is in his ninth season as a NFL Strength and Conditioning Coach. Liburd has experience in designing, implementing and supervising strength and conditioning programs for various athletic populations. Liburd also has experience in designing and overseeing team nutrition and dietary programs. Liburd is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who earned his Bachelor degree in Exercise Science from Boston University. He has a Master of Science degree from Canisius College in Health and Human Performance and is currently working towards his Ph.D. in Health and Human Performance at Concordia University Chicago. Liburd holds a variety of certifications in Health and Sport Nutrition, Olympic Weight Lifting and Movement Assessment.  These certifications include Precision Nutrition Level I and Level II as well as USA Weightlifting and Functional Movement Systems.  Liburd also has a great deal of experience in Health, Fitness and Sport Strength and Conditioning. Liburd has worked with several professional teams such as the Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Liburd has also held various positions in Collegiate Strength and Conditioning programs. He has worked with the Boston University Terriers, Springfield College Pride, American College Yellow Jackets and held positions at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning as well as Peak Performance Physical Therapy. 

 

The “Extra Work” you need for Athletic Success – Part 1

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If you’re in the business of  competitive athletics, physique fitness, or movement related performance you’re often looking for that “extra ” edge in physical ability. “Extra” is the qualifier that athletes, trainers and those of us interested in improving athletic potential often use in front of the work or action we believe will get us to this fleeting destination.  In  the competitive environment of professional football “extra””is regularly dispelled as the best strategy for making needed  performance gains. Ubiquitous in its use and constantly and casually strung next to  the various paths for performance success,  the word “extra” seems more like a requirement than an option at the professional level.

“ Hey Dan, I need some “extra’ footwork drills after practice today so i can be better at my position.  or “Dan is there any extra nutrition advice you might have that can help me to recover.”  “Dan, what’s some extra work i can do to be better.”

 

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“the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary is the little extra.” Jimmy Johnson

It seems  that athletes recognize the value of “extra” as an essential piece for reaching excellence and the same can be said of coaches who oversee these athletes.   Jimmy Johnson,  popular and successful American football broadcaster, player, coach, and executive once said “the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary is the little extra.” 

Hence, it’s no surprise that we want to spend more time performing a greater amount of the actions we believe to be integral to our goal or performance success (as an athlete) or that of our athletes (As a coach). For coaches and athletes who’s livelihood  and careers rest on the ability of one to run, jump, and change direction, “extra” work can seem like commission work for their career. 

The approach to this work  often center’s on the  “ more is better” ideology.  It’s  a sentiment that has been expressed since the 14th century and suggests that when people value something they believe more is better than less. Through these lens, one might believe that the majority of work in sports performance preparation should be spent on physical training. However the reality is that physical training can sometimes denote a smaller piece of the successful sport preparation pie when compared to the piece formed through our vision, thoughts and program expectations.

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Envision a sports performance preparation pie that includes a variety of pieces that are intended to aid in sport performance success.  How much of your pie is devoted to factors such as physical preparation, recovery, nutrition, study, rest. The size of pie devoted  to improving physical capacity may be relatively lower than our expectations. Instead, success may require that we center a greater portion of our efforts and time on  performance determining factors such as film study, skill related actives, and recovery factors such as pain management and the reestablishment of lost mobility.

elearning-projects-cost-effective-tips.jpgExtra work is the relative additions we make to those pieces of athletic success pie. More can be better but it usually comes at a cost. Our role as trainers is to be cost effective.  If were adding to one piece we must acknowledge that were taking away from another. In today’s highly competitive and physical climate, extra work and cost effective strategies for athletic success might come through our efforts in mitigating the challenges that athletes often struggle  with through the course of a season. These obstacles include pain management, the degradation of tissue quality and reclaiming lost mobility. Strategies which attack these challenges in the form of extra work can be fundamental to improving physical capacity but also improving the efficiency  of the athlete. These simple strategies can be the extra work that turns ordinary athletes into extraordinary performers. 

In part 2 we will discuss the “Extra work” that can be of value to your sport athletes…

A time effective proposal for assessment and movement correction for the performance coach

Assessing and correcting movement in a performance setting with limited time.

By Dan Liburd, MS, CSCS, USAW, FMS

 

I would like to preface this presentation with the following statement. This article is an invitation for discussion and an opportunity to provide movement specialists (athletic trainers, physical therapists, and strength and conditioning coaches) with a potential valuable resource for assisting members of the fitness and performance community.

This proposal is especially pertinent to movement specialists and performance coaches who work with a large number of athletes and/or clients within a limited amount of time. It is for those individuals who are seeking to understand more about their clients’ potential without infringing on the time needed to develop that potential.

We are at an age now where we have innovative tools that can track useful information about an athlete’s speed, distance, strength and power without disrupting their field practice and performance. We can assess often valuable information about athletes or clients while they focus on their objectives without interruption within their activity such as sport. These advances have come in the shape of GPS units, Keiser machines, force plates and even recently the Nordbord.  However, when it comes to assessing a standard of movement with efficiency, ease, and without interruption to an athletes performance, we are still in need of improvement.

There are limitations in our current model for assessment. We approach assessment as the activity we do before correction and ultimately before performance. While the movement assessment model correctly explains that we should not build performance over movement dysfunction it does not offer a practical strategy on how we should accomplish this goal.  As performance coaches in a time limited setting we cannot afford the time to assess and then correct before we focus on improving factors related to performance.  Unfortunately, this is where the appeal for establishing or respecting an assessment or standard of movement begins to dwindle. When pressed for time, coaches will incorrectly focus all their attention on strength exercise (a measure of performance) rather than be relegated to a model that proposes an assessment first, correction second, and performance last.

It is important that we as performance coaches respect our role as movement specialists and continue to establish an effective standard for movement, assessment and correction. The development of the Functional Movement System (FMS) provided the opportunity and set the stage for understanding and evaluating movement.  While this concept is brilliant, its application to team sports is less than ideal.

This FMS Screen creates a limitation due to the fact that it takes away from the valuable time that athletes need to spend focusing on developing strength and improving performance.  As team performance coaches we are often tasked with the responsibility of developing large groups of athletes (upwards of 100) within a short period of time.  We simply do not have the time to effectively assess large groups of athletes in a short period of time without diminishing time dedicated to improving strength and performance skills for those same athletes.

An example of these time limitations can be reflected in the rules instituted by the National Football League (NFL) under the Collective Bargaining Agreement set forth in 2011. The Collective Bargaining Agreement states under Article 21 section 5 B:

“During the offseason program period, except for the ten days of organized team practice activity and minicamps, players may be (1) at the Club facility no more than four hours per day, no more than four days per week, and not during weekends; and (2) on the field no more than ninety minutes per day. In addition, the Club may not specify to any player more than two specific hours a day during which it suggests that the player be at club facilities.”

Four hours a day for four days may appear to be a great deal of time needed to accomplish the task of appropriately developing ninety or more athletes for the many challenges of a football season.  However, when we consider commitments such as film study and position meetings (which can often take two hours per day) we immediately begin to see the time needed for appropriate movement and performance development of ninety or more athletes diminish.  Consider again the many physical stressors of a football season. They include, but are not limited to, sprinting at high velocities, aggressive change of direction movements, physical strength and integrity needed to sustain forceful movements, and hits and/or activities.

It is no surprise that when performance coaches are presented with a scenario to spend valuable time assessing athletes, as opposed to developing athletes in the form of strength training and the various factors related to performance, coaches will choose the latter, without  spending much time evaluating and providing a standard of movement for their athletes. Who can blame them; our standards of measure when it comes to the evaluation of athletes are biased towards performance rather than movement. Despite this bias, we should be concerned with movement as much if not more than we are with factors related to performance.  The questions is how can we do both efficiently and effectively with regard to time and with respect to a large numbers of athletes.

The answer to this question is to provide a system and/or resource that allows for assessment, movement correction and the opportunity to improving factors related to performance all at the same time.  As performance coaches for large groups of athletes, we should no longer approach assessment as a task we perform prior to performance. Instead, we should focus on including assessments within our performance training programs.  Movement assessments should occur as we focus on improving all of the factors related to performance as well as movement.  By including assessments within our performance training setting we can do the following:

  1. Effectively appraise an athlete’s movement potential while also focusing on developing factors such as strength and speed.
  2. Take measurements against an objective standard providing us with a better understanding of the athlete’s needs and/or limitations.
  3. Provide assessment tests that challenge our athletes to move while also serving as exercises for improving movement.
  4. Change the perspective of movement assessment from the task you complete before you perform activities such as strength training to the task you complete while you focus on strength training, skill building and performance.

 

In order to understand the multiple benefits of this model let’s examine the football athlete as a training client. We know that in the course of a football season the athlete will go through multiple stressors that can potentially change their quality of movement.  The athlete can regularly experience mental and physical stress, pain, and may develop various other biomechanical restrictions. These are the factors that will have an impact on their fundamental way of moving.  For example, Joe athlete’s movement spectrum can differ day to day so it is important to provide him an assessment tool that measures his ability to move against an objective standard. In addition, it is important to provide him with a solution to his movement limitation(s) on a consistent basis.   Let’s take for instance an athlete who has gone through the stressors of a normal football practice session. By the time the football athlete has gone through several days or weeks of practice and competition, they may experience fundamental changes to their movement range which in turn will have an impact on their ability to perform and to execute certain skills.

As performance coaches we understand that It is imperative to the success of the athlete to consistently measure performance factors such as speed, sets, reps, and resistance weight and to modify them based on impactful elements such as stress, fatigue and the various occurrences of life. By the same token, we should aim to consistently assess movement ability and make immediate modifications to issues that can manifest themselves as tissue restriction based on elements such as stress, fatigue and the natural occurrences of life.

As we approach this offseason I have spent time evaluating our current approach to movement assessment and correction.  Taking into consideration our schedule and the limitations of time spent with large groups of athletes I have proposed a strategy that combines assessment with movement corrections in an effort to understand and improve the athlete’s movement potential while also respecting our responsibility as performance coaches.

This proposal comes in the form of a series of various tools and tests that can be easily implemented in a performance setting within a short period of time. Over the next few presentations I will detail how these tests and tools can play a role in movement assessment and also help your athletes and/or clients to improve movement without disrupting the time spent to improve performance. I will start by explaining this assessment and movement correction model for ankle dorsiflexion.

It is commonly understood that ankle dorsiflexion (flexion of the foot) is integral to functional movements such as walking, running and also an important factor for lower body force production. Restricted dorsiflexion can cause limitations to athletic performance and can be also be a factor for increase susceptibility for lower body dysfunction that can result in pain injury. Movement authors note that normal dorsiflexion can range from approximately 20 to 30 degrees.  However, some researchers suggests that ankle dorsiflexion range of up to 38 degrees may diminish the susceptibility of individuals to pain and/or injury risk.  Researchers in Sweden published a study in the American journal of sports medicine evaluating ankle dorsi flexion range in over ninety junior elite basketball players and their predisposition to a form of sports induced knee pain.   The results of their study demonstrated that individuals with a dorsiflexion range of less than 36.5 degrees had a significant risk ( up to 29% greater chance) of developing knee pain as compared to players who had a dorsiflexion range of more than36.5 degrees.   When mobility is limited in areas such as the ankle, it can negatively affect the function of other areas up the kinetic chain such as the knee or the hip.

This occurrence can result in limitations in mobility at certain joints and can negatively affect movement in the form of compensation, substitution, asymmetry, loss of efficiency and ultimately injury. This biomechanical relationship between joints is often referred to as the joint by joint approach and explains that particular joints such as the ankle, hip and thoracic spine are intended to be biased towards mobility while joint regions such as the knee and lumbar areas are intended to be stable. Limitations to the normal function of these joints can potentially lead to movement dysfunction or injury.

Despite this common knowledge among movement specialists, performance coaches are sometimes unaware of the potential stiffness that may negatively impact an athlete’s ability to move at the ankle. For those of you who work with large numbers of athletes in a limited time setting, when is the last time you took the time to assess your athlete’s range of motion at the ankle joint?

The first test of the eight part assessment/movement correction model measures an athlete’s dorsiflexion and stiffness in the posterior chain at the lower leg (gastroc, soleus). The test includes a measured slant board attached to series of marking poles which are in succession and evenly spaced apart.

To perform the test simply have the athlete start from a standing position and place one foot over the slant board with their toes pressed firmly against the edge of the wall placed at the end of the gradient (or end of the slant).  We want to measure the athlete in a standing and body weight loaded position because we want to understand the mechanisms that take place at the ankle joint in this functional position.  The angle of the assessment slant board is measured at 10 degrees.  As a result of this design, by simply placing your foot on the board (with the knee perpendicular or directly over the ankle at 90 degrees) with the heel placed firmly to the ground will result in 10 degrees of dorsiflexion.   From this position the athlete should be instructed to drive the knee as far forward as possible without elevating the heel from the board.  Coach the athlete to perform 8 – 9 reps on each side.

It is important to take this time to clarify that we are treating this activity as both assessment and also an opportunity to improve mobility (if needed). We are looking to improve mobility at the ankle by challenging any restrictions on the extensibility of the posterior chain in the form of stretching.

Along the board are four indicators or markers placed at various angles. As the athlete drives the knee forward (with the ankle placed firmly to the ground) they can potentially pass these set of markers at the knee. These differently angled indicators reflect varying degrees of range of motion at the ankle. They are expressed as follows:

  • Marker 1 – reflects a range of motion of up to 10 degrees at the ankle joint.
  • Marker 2 – reflects a range of motion of up to 20 degrees at the ankle joint.
  • Marker 3 – reflects a range of motion of up to 30 degrees at the ankle joint.
  • Marker 4 – reflects a range of motion of up to 40 degrees at the ankle joint.

From this test we can categorize dorsiflexion of our athlete while also providing them a means to improve dorsiflexion.  This strategy can provide the coaches with knowledge of their athlete’s ability to move by understanding potential limitations of movement characteristics

Consider implementing this assessment or mobility exercise as a paired activity with a complex movement or coaching intensive exercise such as a clean or front squat where a certain degree of ankle mobility and/or dorsiflexion is needed for good movement. This can give a coach the freedom to make quick inferences on potential movement while also spending time coaching performance.

We should look at this assessment tool with the same perspective we place on performance factor assessments such as weight lifted and reps.  As performance coaches we do not make any inferences on potential injury risk based on weight lifted and reps without understanding all other factors.  This perspective should also be applied to this assessment strategy. We are simply taking note of any movement restriction using a tool that provides a standard of measurement while also providing a resource to improve movement (if there needs to be improvement).  Finally and most importantly this strategy can be performed anytime without disruption to the time needed for performance.

Do you – improve movement through pilates

Just returned from a session with Elizabeth today. We went through some of the basics of Pilates. She informed me of the history and the differences between Classical and Contemporary practices. I was pleased to find that the practice was popularized in New York and has since gained ground all over the world.  I’m not going to fill you in on the history, you can go to Liz for that.  However i will say that the movements and practices we went through today are very similar in nature to the concepts we reinforce in strength and conditioning.  Concepts such as Anti – rotation at the spine, disassociation between the hips and the spine or mobility at the hips and stability at the spine were constantly reinforce throughout the session.  I even found that  some of the mobility exercises and movement I preach to my athletes between sets are common exercises in pilates.   The cook squat isn’t a movement we’ve just learned recently. It’s been practice for years.  This was the theme for most of the session. Movements and ideas such as improving thoracic extension and rotation aren’t very new to pilates practitioners.  In our efforts to improve mobility along certain areas of the body  (Big toe, ankle, hips, thoracic spine, shoulder) Pilates may be a good supplement to a stability biased strength and conditioning program.  In addition it may be a wonderful practice for those wishing to be active.

Do you – Improve Thoracic Mobility with Exercises from Chase the Athletic Trainer

 Last week I had an opportunity to listen to some of the brilliant minds in the industry speak on various issues from barefoot training to corrective exercise. I was able to meet some great strength coaches, physical therapists and athletic trainer including Chase Troescher. Chase actually took some time to work with me on a few mobility exercises. One of my favorite mobility exercises was the lumbar locked thoracic extension exercise.

 Physical therapist Gray Cook presents this movement as part of  multi – segmental evaluation in the selective functional movement assessment (SFMA) system. The lumbar locked (IR) active and passive rotation and extension assessments evaluates movement at the thorax.  Tissue extensibility, joint mobility and stability at the thorax are observed and evaluated when performing a series of rotation and extension movements at the upper spine.  In addition, right and left differences can be observed to note any further dysfunction.

Why is this a superior thoracic mobility exercise?

 It focuses on the area of concern with limited contribution from the lumbar spine, scapula and shoulder. Anytime we can fix or stabilize the pelvis we can limit the contribution of rotation at the lumbar the spine. In this particular exercise the athlete or client is placed in to a quadruped position resulting in flexion at the hips. In addition, the client is cued to lock their pelvis by placing a medball between their legs and squeezing. The action of squeezing the medball in position of hip flexion limits movement at the  lumbar spine.  Additionally, by placing the arm behind the back In an internally rotated position, the scapula, chest and anterior shoulder are limited in their contribution to movement.  In the end, the reason this exercise is superior is because it limits our ability to cheat.

Do You – Activate Your Hips

The importance of mobility to optimal movement has been demonstrated by numerous coaches and authors.  We understand that mobility is the potential of motion at a particular joint. We also understand that it is relative to stability, and that a greater need for stability means a greater need for mobility.  Lastly, we know that to achieve greater mobility we must take a holistic approach in attacking each of the components of mobility which include but are not limited to flexibility, Joint range of motion, muscle range of motion, extensibility, and plasticity.  Muscle function or the action of a muscle at a joint is generally viewed as relating more to stability than mobility.  For instance it is commonly understood that in order to achieve appropriate stability we need muscles to fire properly and at the right time.  However the same can be said when it comes to improving mobility. In order to achieve appropriate mobility we need muscles to fire appropriately and at the right time.  It isn’t a new concept.  I’ve seen many presentations expressing the idea of muscle function as a means for increasing mobility.  Mike Robertson calls it motor control; Charlie Weingroff calls these the mobilizers in his DVD Training = Rehab. The point is that we’re all saying the same thing. The function of these muscle groups particularly at the hip is important to mobility and movement.

When it comes to the hips one of the ways we improve mobility is through optimal function of prime movers. In the case of extension, the glute max must properly extend the femur at the hip joint. Whereas, hip flexion requires the psoas to effectively flex the femur at the hip joint. Any limitations in the ability of the psoas or glutes to exhibit function will result in a limited range of motion and a reduction of mobility in space.  This reduction in mobility can have a negative impact to fundamental movement patterns involved in locomotion and performance on the field.  It should also be mentioned that restrictions in mobility may also be the result of muscle length, stiffness, structure or joint restriction.  If limited muscle function of prime movers results in lack of mobility in space how can we improve their ability to perform their designated action?

I had the fortunate experience of interning at MBSC back in 07 when I first saw exercises which focused on accomplishing those tasks.  Coach Boyle termed these corrections activation exercises. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to share this thought process with various coaches at various levels.  Last year the Bills strength and conditioning staff and I spent a great deal of time with our players focusing on appropriate warm up activities to drive mobilization through activation of prime movers.  The exercises for this portion of the warm up included:

Glute Activation Exercises

  • Cook Hip Lift or the Leg Lock Bridge

  • Foam Roller – Short level Raise

  • Long Lever Raise

  • ½ Kneeling Partner Press Outs

Psoas Activation Exercises

  • High Knee Walks

  • Standing Hip Flexion

  • Lying Mini Band Psoas Hip flexion 

  • Seated Hip Flexion

This Off Season the Bills Strength and Conditioning staff decided to revisit our system of training.    In an effort to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our system at increasing mobility in the appropriate areas we decided to revisit some of the exercises we use in our warm up routine, lift routine and post – life routine.  What we discovered was that we could combine certain exercises and achieve our goal more effectively.  For instance, in the lying mini Band Psoas Hip Flexion exercise the focus is to place the knee above 90 or at a position where the psoas is likely to be the main contributor to hip flexion.  By activating the psoas we increase its ability to properly activate during movements that require hip flexion. In addition, by improving activation we also reduce the compensations that can result from a weak or inhibited psoas such as dominance from other hip flexors such as the TFL or Adductors.  Likewise, by activating glutes we can limit the dominance of synergistic muscles such as the hamstrings and adductors.  We do this by improving the ability of the glute to extend at the joint. The exercises we use to accomplish these goals are listed below.  These exercises satisfy our efforts to achieve proper function of the psoas and glute and also facilitate the key concept of “hip separation” in the sagittal plane. In other words, it improves their ability to demonstrate maximal closed chain extension and maximal open chain flexion of the hip.  In conclusion, these activation exercises can aid in variety of areas pertinent to optimal movement by driving mobilization of the hip through increase muscle function. And more importantly they are time efficient.   The following exercises are listed below.  

Phase 1

Foam Roller – Short Lever Raise + Mini Band Psoas Hip Flexion (Hip separation activation)

Phase 2

½ Kneeling Partner Press Outs + Forward Knee Lift (Press out and lift)

Phase 3

Standing Hip Flexion/ Extension (Standing sprinter pose)

Do You – Activate Your Hips – Training strategies to help you improve your athletic potential

 

The importance of mobility to optimal movement has been demonstrated by numerous coaches and authors.  We understand that mobility is the potential of motion at a particular joint. We also understand that it is relative to stability, and that a greater need for stability means a greater need for mobility.  Lastly, we know that to achieve greater mobility we must take a holistic approach in attacking each of the components of mobility which include but are not limited to flexibility, Joint range of motion, muscle range of motion, extensibility, and plasticity.  Muscle function or the action of a muscle at a joint is generally viewed as relating more to stability than mobility.  For instance it is commonly understood that in order to achieve appropriate stability we need muscles to fire properly and at the right time.  However the same can be said when it comes to improving mobility. In order to achieve appropriate mobility we need muscles to fire appropriately and at the right time.  It isn’t a new concept.  I’ve seen many presentations expressing the idea of muscle function as a means for increasing mobility.  Mike Robertson calls it motor control; Charlie Weingroff calls these the mobilizers in his DVD Training = Rehab. The point is that we’re all saying the same thing. The function of these muscle groups particularly at the hip is important to mobility and movement.

When it comes to the hips one of the ways we improve mobility is through optimal function of prime movers. In the case of extension, the glute max must properly extend the femur at the hip joint. Whereas, hip flexion requires the psoas to effectively flex the femur at the hip joint. Any limitations in the ability of the psoas or glutes to exhibit function will result in a limited range of motion and a reduction of mobility in space.  This reduction in mobility can have a negative impact to fundamental movement patterns involved in locomotion and performance on the field.  It should also be mentioned that restrictions in mobility may also be the result of muscle length, stiffness, structure or joint restriction.  If limited muscle function of prime movers results in lack of mobility in space how can we improve their ability to perform their designated action?

I had the fortunate experience of interning at MBSC back in 07 when I first saw exercises which focused on accomplishing those tasks.  Coach Boyle termed these corrections activation exercises. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to share this thought process with various coaches at various levels.  Last year the Bills strength and conditioning staff and I spent a great deal of time with our players focusing on appropriate warm up activities to drive mobilization through activation of prime movers.  The exercises for this portion of the warm up included:

Glute Activation Exercises

  • Cook Hip Lift or the Leg Lock Bridge

  • Foam Roller – Short level Raise

  • Long Lever Raise

  • ½ Kneeling Partner Press Outs

Psoas Activation Exercises

  • High Knee Walks

  • Standing Hip Flexion

  • Lying Mini Band Psoas Hip flexion

  • Seated Hip Flexion

This Off Season the Bills Strength and Conditioning staff decided to revisit our system of training.    In an effort to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our system at increasing mobility in the appropriate areas we decided to revisit some of the exercises we use in our warm up routine, lift routine and post – life routine.  What we discovered was that we could combine certain exercises and achieve our goal more effectively.  For instance, in the lying mini Band Psoas Hip Flexion exercise the focus is to place the knee above 90 or at a position where the psoas is likely to be the main contributor to hip flexion.  By activating the psoas we increase its ability to properly activate during movements that require hip flexion. In addition, by improving activation we also reduce the compensations that can result from a weak or inhibited psoas such as dominance from other hip flexors such as the TFL or Adductors.  Likewise, by activating glutes we can limit the dominance of synergistic muscles such as the hamstrings and adductors.  We do this by improving the ability of the glute to extend at the joint. The exercises we use to accomplish these goals are listed below.  These exercises satisfy our efforts to achieve proper function of the psoas and glute and also facilitate the key concept of “hip separation” in the sagittal plane. In other words, it improves their ability to demonstrate maximal closed chain extension and maximal open chain flexion of the hip.  In conclusion, these activation exercises can aid in variety of areas pertinent to optimal movement by driving mobilization of the hip through increase muscle function. And more importantly they are time efficient.   The following exercises are listed below.

Phase 1

Foam Roller – Short Lever Raise + Mini Band Psoas Hip Flexion (Hip separation activation)

Phase 2

½ Kneeling Partner Press Outs + Forward Knee Lift (Press out and lift)

Phase 3

Standing Hip Flexion/ Extension (Standing sprinter pose)