Hip weakness is a common area of focus in both the rehabilitation and fitness fields. Combine our excessive sitting postures and the majority of activities during the day that occur in the sagittal plane of motion, and hip weakness in the frontal and transverse planes is common.
There are many exercises designed to address glute medius and glute maximus strength in the transverse plane. But a simple tweak to your posture during one of the most common exercises can have a big impact on glute activity and the balance between your glutes and TFL.
The Effect of Body Position on Lateral Band Walking
A recent study in JOSPT analyzed EMG activity of the glute max, glute medius, and TFL muscles during two variations of the lateral band walking exercises.
The subjects performed the lateral band walk in a standing straight up posture and a more flexed squat position.
I’ve personally used both variations in the past but tend to perform the exercise more often in the slightly flexed position, which we consider a more “athletic posture,” as we don’t really walk laterally with our hips and knees straight very often.
Results showed that EMG of both the glute max and glute medius was enhanced by performing lateral band walks in the partial squat position, and that TFL activity was actually reduced. Glute activity almost doubled.
A Simple Tweak to Enhance Glute and Reduce TFL Activity
The finding of reduced TFL activity is just as important as enhanced glute EMG activity, as the ratio of glute medius to TFL is greatly enhanced by performing the lateral band walk in this athletic position.
Sometimes it’s the simplest studies that make the most impact.
The TFL also acts as a secondary hip flexor and internal rotator of the hip. In those with glute medius weakness, which is fairly common, the TFL tends to be overactive to produce abduction of the hip.
Considering how our chronic seated posture can cause shortening of the hip flexors and we know many knee issues can arise from too much dynamic hip internal rotation and glute medius weakness, we often try to focus on developing the glute medius ability to become more of the primary muscle involved with abduction, instead of the TFL.
Another interesting finding of the study was that the stance limb, not the moving limb, had higher EMG activity for every muscle in both positions. This shows the importance of the stance abductors in providing both a closed kinetic chain driving force as well as a lumbopelvic stabilizing force when the moving limb transitions to nonweightbearing.
We focus a lot on abduction based exercises to strengthen the glute medius, but closed kinetic chain exercises in single leg stance may be just as important to train the hip to stabilize the lower extremity.
One thing I would add is that I rarely perform this exercise with the band at the ankles as the authors did. I much prefer to put the band around the knee and feel it helps develop better hip control.
Based on this study, I’m not sure I see why I would perform a lateral band walk in a tall upright posture. I’m going to maximize glute activity and reduce TFL activity by doing the exercise in a more flexed athletic position.
It’s pretty obvious that the shoulder is linked to the scapula, which is linked to the trunk. So why do we so often perform isolated arm movement exercises without incorporating the trunk? It’s a good question. The body works as a kinetic chain that requires a precise interaction of joints and muscles throughout the body.
The Effect of Trunk Rotation During Shoulder Exercises
The authors chose overhead elevation, external rotation by the side, external rotation in the 90/90 position similar to throwing, and 3 positions of scapular retraction while lying prone (45 degrees, 90 degrees, and 145 degrees) that were similar to prone T’s and Y’s. The essentially had subjects perform the exercise with and without rotating their trunk towards the moving arm.
EMG of the the upper trapezius, middle trapezius, lower trapezius, and serratus anterior were recorded, as well as 3D scapular biomechanics.
There were a few really interesting results.
Adding trunk rotation to arm elevation, external rotation at 0 degrees, and external rotation at 90 degrees significantly increased scapular external rotation and posterior tilt, and all 3 exercises increased LT activation
During overhead elevation, posterior tilt was 23% increased and lower trap EMG improve 67%, which in turn reduced the upper trap/lower trap ratio.
Adding rotation to the prone exercises reduced upper trapezius activity, and therefore enhanced the upper trap/lower trap ratio as well.
What Does This All Mean?
I would say these results are interesting. While the EMG activity was fairly low throughout the study, the biggest implication is that involving the trunk during arm movements does have a significant impact on both muscle activity and scapular mechanics. Past studies have shown that including hip movement with shoulder exercises also change muscle activity.
This makes sense. If you think about it, traditional exercises like elevation and external rotation involve moving the shoulder on the trunk. By adding trunk movement during the exercises you are also involving moving the trunk on the shoulder.
This is how the body works, anyway. Most people don’t robotically just move their arm during activities, the move their entire body to position the arm in space to accomplish their goal.
It’s also been long speculated that injuries during sports like throwing and baseball pitching may be at least partially responsible for not positioning or stabilizing the scapula optimally. I think this study supports this theory, showing that trunk movement alters shoulder function.
Isolated exercises like elevation and external rotation are always going to be important, especially when trying to enhance the strength of a weak or injured muscle. However, adding tweaks like trunk rotation to these exercises as people advance may be advantageous when trying to work on using the body with specific scapular positions or ratio of trapezius muscle activity.
5 Tweaks to Make Shoulder Exercises Even More Effective
I’m a big fan of understanding how little tweaks can make a big difference on your exercise selection. If you are interested in learning more, this month’s Inner Circle webinar will discuss 5 Tweaks to Make Shoulder Exercises Even More Effective. The webinar will be Tuesday August 25th at 8:00 PM EST, but a recording will be up soon after.
I am super excited to announce that we have just released an online version of our Champion Performance Therapy and Training Seminar that we filmed earlier this summer!
The seminar was AWESOME, with a great turnout of people from all around the country coming to Boston to learn how we integrate performance training and therapy at Champion. But, we know that there were 100’s of people that wanted to attend that couldn’t make it that weekend, so we wanted to provide an online version of the program!
Champion Performance Therapy and Training Program
The Champion Performance Therapy and Training Seminar is an online educational product designed to overview the Champion system of integrated rehabilitation, fitness, and sports performance training for physical therapists, personal trainers, strength coaches and other rehabilitation and fitness specialists. The program includes 9 modules and over 6 hours of live lectures and hands-on sessions from the entire team at Champion:
Introduction to the Champion System of Integrated Rehab and Performance – Mike Reinold
Assessing and Optimizing Movement (Hands-On Session) – Mike Reinold and Lenny Macrina
Progressing and Regressing Movement-Based Strength Exercises (Hands-On Session) – Rob Sutton
Speed and Agility Drills (Hand-On Session) – Malcolm Goodridge
Plus tons of demonstrations and live Q&A Sessions
This is a HUGE resource for physical therapists, personal trainers, and strength coaches looking to enhance their skills and develop a well rounded program of performance therapy and training.
Personal trainers, strength coaches, and other fitness specialists will learn the concepts behind the Champion program design system, including how we select, regress, progress, and periodize exercises based on movement patterns to enhance performance. You’ll learn how we emphasize developing complete athleticism by enhancing mobility, strength, power, speed, and agility.
Physical therapists and rehabilitation specialists will learn our concepts of movement-based rehabilitation, included strategies to assess movement dysfunctions and prescribe appropriate manual therapy and corrective exercises. We emphasize a hands-on approach that includes a thorough biomechanical assessment of how the body moves and functions to determine what specific muscle imbalances and movement impairments may be leading to dysfunction or limiting performance. We then offer an individualized approach that produces amazing results.
But what I like most about our model at Champion is that we integrate our rehab and fitness systems.
Fitness specialists will benefit from learning how we integrate rehabilitation concepts into our programs to develop appropriate self-myofascial release, mobility, and corrective exercise programs. Likewise, rehabilitation specialists will benefit from learning how we integrate performance training concepts to understand how to integrate appropriate strength and conditioning concepts into advanced rehabilitation programs.
Save 20% This Week Only
The program is normally $99.99 but is on sale for 20% off this week only, starting today and going until Sunday 8/23/15 at midnight EST. Get 9 modules and over 6 hours of content for only $79.99 this week.
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Pitching a baseball takes a tremendous amount of skill to throw with velocity and accuracy. Improving velocity tends to be the primary concern of many pitchers, especially youth baseball players. In order to learn how to enhance velocity, it’s more important to study scientific evidence than to rely on anecdotal information and traditional baseball concepts.
A recent study was published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine by a group of researchers in Japan that compared how youth and college pitchers use their trunks and legs during their pitching mechanics.
They found that youth and college pitchers threw with similar biomechanical kinematics, meaning that their mechanics were similar.
However, what they did find was that momentum and force generation were higher in the college pitchers. College pitchers exhibited:
Greater push off on the pivot leg during stride
Greater pelvis and trunk rotation throughout the pitching sequence
Greater stride leg control during acceleration
Greater stride leg extension explosive force approaching ball release
It should be noted that the data was normalized to body mass to take into consideration the lower weight and size of adolescent pitchers. This make the comparison fair.
These results correspond well to a previous report by the same authors that showed college pitchers with higher velocity also showed greater ability to produce force in their legs and trunk in comparison to college pitchers with low velocity.
To Maximize Velocity, Generate More Force with the Legs and Trunk
Again, mechanics of youth are similar, but their ability generate force is different. Generating more force with your legs and trunk results in greater velocity.
But getting stronger probably isn’t enough.
Based on these two studies it is apparent that getting stronger isn’t the only thing needed to increase your pitching velocity. You also need to be able to generate more speed and power.
Part of this is simply getting older and bigger. A stronger body and a longer arm generates more force, that’s just simple physics. But there are also some tweaks you can perform to generate more force. Here are three things youth baseball pitchers can train to improve their pitching velocity based on this new scientific evidence
While strength probably isn’t enough alone, strength is probably the first factor youth should focus on to improve velocity. To develop more power, you need to be stronger. The more force you can exert, the harder you will throw.
Based on these studies, lower body strengthening is an area that deserves a lot of attention. The legs are used during the early phases of pitching, so the amount of force produced early in the delivery will result in more force being developed and transferred through the body for the rest of the pitching sequence.
Take a look at professional baseball pitchers. The majority that look like they throw effortlessly have big legs, hips, and butts. Jon Lester is a great current example, and Roger Clemens is probably a great former example.
The shorter and smaller framed pitchers tend throw with much more effort.
The bigger and stronger your legs, the more force you can generate, which has been shown in numerous studies to correlate to velocity.
I think a lot of youth baseball players stop at strength, and that can actually be detrimental. Research in the strength and conditioning world has shown that training certain qualities, like strength and speed, results in adaptations of the body.
Once a baseline of strength is established, I tend to focus on “intent.” What I mean by that is you want to develop the athlete’s ability to explode. This is an area that many youth do not understand. They don’t know how to explode.
Once a young athlete understands how to move a heavy weight slowly, you want them to transition this to moving a moderate weight faster, and eventually a lighter weight even faster.
Exercises like plyometric jumps, medicine ball throws, kettlebell swings, and speed trap bar deadlifts are all very effective in this spectrum of training.
On the baseball training side of the equation, this is where long toss and overweight/underweight balls become important for pitchers (there is a right way and wrong way to implement these). I’m not sure any of these develop “arm strength” as much as they develop “arm speed.”
Lastly, and probably the least well understood and implemented, is training for stability. To improve throwing velocity, you need the proper motor control and dynamic stability to stabilize both the arm and the stride leg. People to tend to understand the arm more these days, but I wouldn’t ignore the stride leg.
To properly transfer force that is developed from your pivot leg, you need a strong AND stable stride leg.
You need stride leg stability for force transfer, but don’t forget the body has internal regulations to avoid injury. If the stride leg can’t stabilize the force, theoretically you body won’t allow you to develop the force.
This also goes for the arm, and I believe why using weighted balls the WRONG way can be harmful, especially for youth pitchers. Your arm needs to be able to withstand the force to produce the force. Otherwise, your brain is smart enough to regulate force development.
To maximize velocity, you need to train the body to develop and withstand force. Too many of us only focus on developing force alone. This can result in ineffectiveness of training programs as well as injury by pushing past your physiological limits.
Understand that maximum velocity in a baseball pitcher occurs through a combination of many qualities. Work on enhancing each of these will result in a maximum amount of velocity while reducing the chance of injury.
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This past weekend, I was speaking at the Elite Training Workshop that we hosted at Champion PT and Performance in Boston on the topic of Integrating Corrective Exercises with Performance Enhancement. As I was going through my slides, I actually tweaked it a bit and added one new slide with a simple statement:
Stop Trying to Correct and Start Trying to Enhance
At the beginning of the talk, I discussed what some people would use to define the term “corrective exercise.” I even asked around the room. In general most people refer to corrective exercises as an exercise designed to improve poor mobility, strength imbalances, and altered motor control.
But there are some people that still refer to corrective exercises as exercises designto “fix” someone or “reduce pain.” I would argue, this is not what corrective exercises are supposed to be utilized for within a training program. Fixing injuries uses rehabilitation exercises, not corrective exercises. They are different.
This may be why you see people doing a squat on an unstable surface and calling it a “corrective exercise.” What are you trying to correct with that exercise?
One of the major components of using corrective exercises is a thorough assessment. Without an assessment you are just taking a stab at something. Without a through assessment, you are looking at an incomplete picture. This may be OK to try on some people, but will be ineffective with many people, and could actually be detrimental with people in pain. I’ve talked about this before in what I call The Corrective Exercise Bell Curve.
I would define corrective exercises more like this:
So Do We Really Need to Use Corrective Exercises in the Fitness and Performance World?
I still think we do, but perhaps we should really change our focus. Corrective exercises shouldn’t be used to “fix” people. That implies there is a problem. Don’t think of it as taking someone that is below their baseline capacity and getting them back to baseline, think of it as enhancing someone’s baseline and raising their capacity.
“Corrective exercise” is probably not the best terminology, perhaps that is part of the problem. Incorporate corrective exercises to help enhance people. Again, I’ll go back to that original phrase from my new slide:
Use corrective exercises to enhance someone’s mobility, or improve someone’s movement pattern, or to add a strength emphasis to an area that is weak. In this last example, if someone is quad dominant, has poor glute strength, and overuses their low back instead of their hips to hips, a “corrective exercise” may be a deadlift variation! That doesn’t seem like rehab to me, that seems like performance enhancement, doesn’t it?
Learn How I Integrate Corrective Exercises with Performance Enhancement
If you are interested in learning how I integrate corrective exercises into our performance enhancement programs at Champion, I have an Inner Circle webinar on the topic. In the presentation, I discuss:
What corrective exercises really focus on
How to classify corrective exercises into specific components
My system for determining which corrective exercises to perform
What you can do to maximize the effectiveness of your corrective exercises
How and when to integrate corrective exercises into your rehabilitation, fitness, or performance enhancement program
Any half way decent strength and conditioning program must be individualized to the unique needs and goals of the trainee. Developing programs that specifically address our clients’ “goals” is fairly straightforward, however, mastering how to design programs that also consider their “needs” can really take you to the next level as a personal trainer or strength coach.
When designing training programs, we often begin individualizing based on age. That’s a great place to start, but there are many limitations with just using age. I want to review how we design programs using “age” by starting with a review of chronological, biological, and training age.
More importantly, I wanted to introduce a new “age” we use at Champion called “movement age.” This may be the most important, yet most neglected as well.
Chronological and Biological Age
At the very beginning of the spectrum when discussing the “age” of your client is their actual chronological age, which is their precise age. While this probably isn’t as big of an issue when discussing the training program of two people aged 34 and 38, it is much more relevant when comparing two people aged 14 and 18.
Chronological age is a good place to start, obviously, but their biological age is far more important. The anatomical maturity of a 14 year old is quite different from an 18 year old and does become a variable that must be adjusted for within your program design.
Line up 6 kids that are aged 14 and you’ll see the difference. One looks like he is 10 years old, another looks 18, and the rest all fall somewhere in between. According to the data accumulated at Wikipedia, girls will go through puberty between the ages of 10 and 16, while boys tend to go through puberty between the ages of 11 and 17. That’s a 6 year range!
Our focus with those with a low chronological age is different that the older high school athletes. While strength and power tend to become more of the focus in the older trainee, we focus on what we call the ABC’s of movement with our younger trainees, focusing on Agility, Balance, and Coordination. Strength training is included but the results are obviously going to be limited by the hormonal and skeletal maturation differences.
But, I urge you to not downplay this stage of athletic development. Developing the basics of movement skills is important and unfortunately this generation of children are not getting the same development as past generations. In fact, our younger athletes at Champion see some of the biggest changes in athleticism. These programs are impactful.
Here are my 2 and 6 year olds working on their athleticism!
So it’s apparent that chronological age has limited usefulness and biological age is a much better place to start. However, chronological age does not take into consideration the experience of the trainee.
As chronological age becomes less relevant with older trainees, the next variable to consider is their experience in training. Image the difference in two individuals:
Trainee 1 – 28 year old – Wants to lose 10 pounds – Did not participate in athletics growing up, has never participated in a strength and conditioning program, currently has desk job.
Trainee 2 – 28 year old – Wants to lose 10 pounds – Was athletic growing up playing multiple sports in high school, and club sports for fun in college, trained at a sports performance center through high school, hasn’t trained consistently in 10 years.
Trainee 3 – 28 year old – Wants to lose 10 pounds – Was athletic growing up playing multiple sports in high school, and club sports for fun in college, trained at a sports performance center through high school, consistently trained through college and has continued since college.
We have people that are 28 years old and want to lose 10 pounds. Same age, same goal. Do they all start with the same program? Of course not.
Training age takes into consideration the experience of the trainee. Have they strength trained before? Do they know how to perform the lifts with proper form? Do they know how to exert force with intent (more on this in a future post…)?
Remember the success of your programs are based around how the body adapts to the stress applied. You can pretty much do anything to Trainee 1 to stimulation enough stress to make a change, which is good because they have a lot to learn! On the other end of the spectrum, Trainee 3 has a great understanding of how to train and has been exposing his body to different stresses for years. To make progress in this trainee, you’ll likely need a more complicated periodization scheme to create a different stimulus for their body.
There is one HUGE flaw with training age. Just because you have been training for several years does not mean you understand how to train, or even that you know proper technique!
Don’t assume that since someone has been training consistently for years that they have been training correctly!
This is a common finding in people that have dabbled in strength training in the past and are starting a formal program or starting to work with a personal trainer or strength coach for the first time.
The last age we consider when designing strength and conditioning programs is one of the most important, but often neglected. We can have an advanced trainee in regard to chronological age, biological age, and training age, however, can they move well? At Champion, we’ve started to use the terminology “Movement Age” to discuss someone’s ability to move.
We don’t even have to make this too complicated – can they hinge, squat, lunge, step, rotate, push, and pull?
We simply define the ability to “move” as using proper form through the movement’s full range of motion. This then becomes a scale:
Can they move with assistance?
Can they move without assistance?
Can they move without assistance with load?
Can they move without assistance with load and speed?
It’s amazing how our movement skills have deteriorated. How many of your high school athletes can touch their toes? Isn’t it amazing?!?
In order to advance from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced trainee in our Champion program design system, you need to demonstrate maturation of your chronological, biological, training, and movement age.
On the Performance Therapy side of Champion, we work with a lot of athletes that want to optimize themselves and get the most out of their bodies. It’s amazing how many of the “advanced” athletes we see have poor movement skills. They don’t hinge well, or squat well past neutral, or can’t even balance themselves in a half kneeling position!
This can lead to imbalances, asymmetries, and compensation patterns that can suck performance, lead to tissue overuse, and eventually breakdown. This is especially true if you try to just blast through your poor movement skills and add load and speed to your lifts.
Sometimes we don’t need an advanced and complicated strength training periodization scheme, sometimes we just need to clean up movement patterns. Consider this taking one step back to take 5 huge steps forward. Movement age may be the most important variable to consider when designing strength and conditioning programs.
I feel like we’ve been discussing anterior pelvic tilt lately in several articles and an Inner Circle webinar on my strategies for fixing anterior pelvic tilt. I wanted to show a video of a great example of how a simple assessment really tells you a lot about how pelvic positioning should influence how we coach exercises such as squats and deadlifts.
In this video, I have a great example of a client that has limited knee to chest mobility and with boney impingement. However, if we abduct the leg a bit, it clears the rim of the hip and has full mobility with no impingement.
As you can see, because he is in anterior pelvic tilt, he is prepositioned to start the motion in hip flexion, so therefor looks like he has limited mobility. I have a past article on how anterior pelvic tilt influence hip flexion mobility, which discusses this a little more.
While you are working on their anterior pelvic tilt, you can work around some of their limitations. I hate when people say there is only one way to squat or deadlift.
Our anatomy is so different for each individual.
Some need a wider stance while others need more narrow. Some need toes out while some need more neutral. Do what works best for your body, not what the text book says you are supposed to look like.
One thing I talk about a lot when it comes to training and rehabilitation is the need to train the body in all three planes. This often requires moving in one plane of motion and stabilizing in the other two. We are often very good at moving in the sagittal plane, and poor at stabilizing in the transverse and frontal planes. This is a big topic of discussion in my program Functional Stability Training of the Lower Body.
To enhance this triplanar stability, we often attempt to facilitate greater contraction of the gluteus medius muscle during sagittal plane exercises. The lunge in particular is a great exercise for triplanar stability as the narrow stance challenges strength in the sagittal plane and stability in the transverse and frontal planes.
The Effect of Ipsilateral and Contralateral Loading on Muscle Activity During the Lunge
A recent study was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that investigated the effect of holding a dumbbell in either the contralateral or ipsilateral hand during a split squat and forward lunge. (Note: they called it a “walking lunge” but I am 99% certain it was a forward lunge, so I’m just going to say forward lunger in this article… probably just semantics.)
The study found that:
Holding the dumbbell on the ipsilateral side had no effect on glute med activity.
Holding the dumbbell on the contralateral side resulted in a significant increase in glute med activity, but only during the forward lunge, not the split squat.
I was a bit surprised that glute med activity was not impacted during the split squat, but perhaps the static nature of the position inherently requires less transverse and frontal plane stability.
There was one other finding from this study that I thought was interesting. Kinematic differences during the forward lunge were found between a group of trained individuals in comparison to a group without training experience.
This makes sense as the forward lunge is a complex movement pattern that requires an understanding of how to control the pattern. It requires both mobility and stability, but also the ability to control the eccentric deceleration phase.
However, there were no kinematic differences between training age during the split squat, meaning that both novice and experienced trainees performed the split squat in a similar fashion. This make split squats a great exercise to incorporate in the early phases of training for those with limited training experience, eventually progressing to forward lunge as they get better at moving and stabilizing the pattern.
This helps solidify the use of split squats in our lunge regression system.
I like simple studies like this. Having the rationale to make small tweaks to your program is what sets you apart. It’s the small things that may not be obvious at first but will produce better results over time.
Based on these results, I would recommend using the split squat with bilateral dumbbells to maximize strength gains since a unilateral load did not alter glute med activity. The split squat is more of a basic exercise, so why not just use it to work on strength gains in the novice trainee. As the person progresses, you can add the forward lunge variation with a contralateral load to enhance triplanar stability.
Mike is the President and Co-Founder of Champion Physical Therapy and Performance, located in Boston, MA. Champion offers an integrated approach to elite level physical therapy, personal training, and sports performance.
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