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5 Mobility Issues Preventing a Consistent Release Point

consistent release pointMost people know that one of the keys to successful baseball pitching is a consistent release point.  This is a point that is driven home by coaches all the time.  Most people focus on your arm slot, for good reason.  Many times inconsistency in your arm slot can be the major cause of poor biomechanics and difficulty repeating your delivery.   I see this a lot in young baseball pitchers that are trying to tweak their mechanics and pitchers that may have discomfort in their shoulder or elbow and are trying to take some pressure off the sore area.

However, the act of throwing a baseball is a sequence of kinetic chain events that ultimately lead to your release point.  There are several factors with your lower body and core that may be altering your arm slot and  leading to an inconsistent release point without you even realizing.

 

5 Mobility Issues That May Prevent a Consistent Release Point

In this article I will discuss 5 issues that may be preventing a consistent release point while pitching.  There are several areas that can be causing inconsistency,  but I wanted to focus on mobility and stability issues that you can address.

If you have mobility or stability concerns in your lower half and core, your body is going to make the adjustment with your arm in order to throw a strike.

This is far too common and one factor in injuries in my opinion.  These compensations are going to lead to wear and tear as well as decreased performance.

It is going to be difficult to make adjustments to your mechanics before cleaning up and mobility or stability concerns.  Otherwise, you are kind of running up hill (or should I say throwing up hill?) trying to make mechanical adjustments on top of dysfunction.

 

Inconsistent Lead Knee Flexion and Trunk Flexion

release pointA very interesting biomechanical study was conducted by ASMI that looked at biomechanics over the course of a game to see if arm slot and a consistent release point changed.  What they found was pretty interesting.  Over the course of a game as the pitcher became tired, there was no change in arm slot at all biomechanically.  In fact, there were relatively little biomechanical changes over the course of a game.  However, they did find two things – a decrease in lead knee flexion and a decrease in trunk flexion.

As baseball pitchers get tired over the course of a game, their bodies are more upright.

This leads to a higher and inconsistent release point, but it has nothing to do with the pitcher’s arm slot.  Their arm slot was the same, but their release point was higher.  This is a very important factor in understanding why a pitcher leaves his pitches up and has trouble getting the ball down in the zone late in the game.

This really demonstrates the importance of a few things:

  • Lead leg quad  and hip strength
  • Lead leg quad and hip endurance
  • Lead leg single leg stance stability

In addition to strength and endurance, I will also incorporate basic lunges onto an unstable surface, such as below, and progress to more dynamic activities over time.

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I also work on low back and posterior chain endurance and stability.  Here is an example of a drill to work on a consistent trunk flexion angle.  The bands create a force trying to pull the trunk forward, creating a need for the body to stabilize.

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Restricted Lead Hip Mobility

Another issue with the lead leg involves mobility as the baseball pitcher’s body rotates and transitions their body weight from the rear leg to the front leg during arm cocking and acceleration phases of throwing and then release the ball and travels into the arm deceleration and follow through phases.

During this movement, the body must rotate over a planted lead leg into a position of hip flexion, adduction and internal rotation.  This is a challenging position to achieve and goes against our postural adaptations, so many baseball pitchers struggle to “get into their lead hip” in this fashion.

Any limitations in lead hip mobility is going to prevent the pitcher from closing their body.  This can cause them to fly open, become more rotational, have their arm drag behind their body, or to decelerate with more of their arm and less of their lower half.  All of these are not good things!

I use several drills and emphasize this “getting into your hip” position.  Here is one basic mobility drill to encourage this hip mobility.  The athlete stands in a split stance similar to their release point and rocks in and out of their hip.  The coaching cue here is to pull your lead leg back into your hip.

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For those that have more restrictions and can’t get into their hip well, they may need more posterior hip stretches, such as shown below.  One thing of note is that I want the lead leg that you are stretching close to neutral rotation.  It’s hard to get into this position without going into hip external rotation, but I do not want the hip externally rotated like you see in many common runner stretches.  You can alter the area of mobilization but changing your body angle to the side and forward until you feel it in the rear of your hip.

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Restricted Rear Hip Mobility

Most pitchers realize that stride length is going to have an effect on release point.  While stride length often times is due to other biomechanical and timing issues, there is a potential for rear leg adductor tightness (groin) altering your stride length.

In my experience, this tends to occur more when there is a groin or hamstring injury in the rear leg or in the pitcher with hip impingement.  I have even seen some pitchers with chronic MCL issues on their rear leg, especially in those with aggressive toe drag.

These concerns will obviously have to be addressed, but there are some general hip mobility drills that you can perform to maintain and enhance adductor mobility in the rear leg.  Here are two basics that are easy enough to add to your movement prep and dynamic warm up, adductor foam rolling and mobilization.

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Poor Rear Leg Stability

In addition to restricted rear hip mobility, the rear leg also has to stabilize the weight of the body at the top of the wind up when the lead leg reaches peak height.  While this seems fairly basic to most people, it could be the equivalent of doing 200 single leg stance exercises for a starting pitcher if you include warm up.  Your balance point at the top of the wind up is essential for the proper sequencing of the rest of your delivery.

Top bring physics into the discussion, your balance point is also where you start developing potential energy and transitioning to kinetic energy.  To illustrate, when you draw back a bow you are building up potential energy to shoot an arrow.  The more you pull back, the more energy you develop and eventually transfer to the arrow.  Losing rear leg stability is the equivalent of drawing the bow back half way.  You will lose some of that energy and force that you want to put behind the ball and direct towards the plate.

So, any issues with rear leg stability could lead to issues with power development, timing, and sequencing through the rest of the delivery requiring your arm to “catch up” to find the correct arm slot.  This can be seen in people drifting and even some that drop-and-drive.

In addition to lower half strengthening exercises, I try to incorporate balance as well.  Here is an example of just some basic single leg balance on an unstable surface.  The foam pad simulates the decline of the mound.  The goal is to pause at the top, maintain balance, and then control your body lowering back down to the start position.  This is a quality over quantity drill.

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Poor Core Control

As you are probably noticing, developing force towards the plate is a common theme in this article.  Any energy leaks away from the plate are going to alter your mechanics and take away from your potential.  Poor core control is one of the most common energy leaks I see, especially in young and/or loose pitchers.  Core control seems to take longer to develop in young athletes, even as they get strong.  Perhaps it has to do with growth spurts, but regardless, it appears that younger athletes have difficulty controlling their core during functional activities.  Add the speed of pitching into the mix, and this core control is challenged even further.

For the loose athlete, they tend to rock back onto their joints to gain stability to make up for poor core dynamic stability.  In the core, this is often seen in pitchers that arch their back significantly while pitching.  This is often lack of anterior core control, taking your momentum away from the plate and becoming more rotational.  This can alter your arm slot and put significant stress on not only your arm, but also you low back.

There are a lot of anti-extension exercises, such as planks and dead bug sequences, that should serve as the basic foundation for this core control.  But once baseline core control is established, I tend to try to get the athlete in more specific positions.  Here are a couple of anti-extension exercises in the stride position.  The bands are pulling into extension, requiring the body to provide anterior core control.  I will progress to then use a TRX Rip Trainer so that I need to prevent a combined extension and rotary force.

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Before you start focusing on your arm slot to train a more consistent release point, make sure you have adequate mobility and stability below.  I always recommend a thorough evaluation combined with manual therapy and some of the corrective strategies above (My Functional Stability Training series has many more examples of these drills and more).  Don’t forget that you may have some mobility and stability issues with your lower body and core that may be causing and inconsistent release point and making it difficult to repeat your mechanics.

 

 

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Is a Biceps Tenodesis the Answer?

I read a lot of stuff on the internet.  I like to keep up with a ton of blogs, websites, and journals to make sure I am on top of recent trends, but also to share with my readers.  I recently came across an article at Science Direct entitled Getting Athletes Back in the Game Sooner Following Shoulder Injuries.  Nice headline, right?  It made me want to click.

Interestingly, they were talking about how a biceps tenodesis can cut down the rehabilitation time from SLAP tears in comparison to a SLAP repair.  That wasn’t what I was expecting!

OK, would a tenodesis cut down (no pun intended…) the rehab time in comparison to a SLAP repair?  No doubt, I agree with that.  But I am not sure if this is what we want to do, especially in athletes, as the title of the article suggested.  Let’s dig into this deeper, but first, let’s discuss SLAP tears and what the biceps tenodesis surgery actually does.

 

What is a SLAP Tear and Biceps Tenodesis?

biceps labral complexI’ve covered superior labral tears, or SLAP tears extensively in the past.  If you don’t know much about SLAP tears, start there, but essentially a SLAP tear is a superior labral tear at the junction of where the long head of the biceps comes in and attaches to the superior labrum.  SLAP tears are common, and can be especially troublesome for overhead athletes.  (Photo from Wikipedia)

A biceps tenodesis is a surgical procedure that detaches the biceps attachment from the superior labrum and reattaches it to the humerus.  Here is a surgical demonstration from Smith and Nephew:

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By removing the biceps, this essentially eliminates the patient’s pain from the SLAP lesion or biceps tendonitis, however at what consequence?  By performing a tenodesis, you are changing the anatomy of the shoulder and the function of the biceps.  This procedure has become more popular in older individuals, essentially those that chose a decrease in function for a decrease in pain.  But what about athletes, as the paper I mentioned above proposed was happening, can they return to sports faster by simply cutting the biceps off instead of trying to repair it?

One of the most popular studies on this subject was in AJSM in 2009.  The authors reported that the results of biceps tenodesis were superior to SLAP repairs in athletes with superior labral tears.  The authors mention both “overhead athletes” and “return to sport” in the paper, though they report the age range of subjects was 24-69 years old.  Furthermore, significant differences in age existed between the two groups, with the mean age of 37 years old in the SLAP repair group and mean age of 52 years old in the biceps tenodesis group.  One could certainly argue that the level of “sport” participation was different between the groups and could certainly influence their subjective satisfaction.

 

What is the Function of the Biceps?

Biomechanical studies have shown that the biceps labrum complex has a role in providing both translational and rotational stability, and that repair of a SLAP lesion restores this ability to provide static stability.  This is especially true in overhead athletes who need to use their arm in the abducted and externally rotated position.  Contraction of the long head of the biceps in this position has been shown to reduce anterior humeral head displacement, a functional that is critical in preventing throwing injuries.  In fact, peak biceps EMG activity has been shown to occur during this cocking phase of throwing, and has been shown to be higher in pitchers that have anterior instability.

Also, don’t forget that release of the long head of the biceps has been shown to increase superior humeral head migration by over 15%.

As all my readers know, superior humeral head migration is disadvantageous and causes many of the dysfunctions we see with the shoulder.  Our whole goal of most shoulder rehabilitation programs is to train the rotator cuff to dynamically stabilize to resist superior humeral head migration.  I’ve written about the role of rotator cuff fatigue in shoulder mechanics and how rotator cuff fatigue increases superior humeral head migration.

So if the biceps is involved with translational and rotational glenohumeral stability and helps prevent superior humeral head migration, is this something you want to sacrifice just to reduce pain?  How will this impact function, and more importantly, future injuries?

 

Is a Biceps Tenodesis the Answer?

Is there a role for biceps tenodesis?  I am sure there is.  I like the recommendations my friend Brian Busconi reports in this paper, stating that he likes to perform SLAP repairs, but will consider biceps tenodesis in patients over the age of 45.  This serves a different purpose and return to high level athletics is probably not as important to the patient than reducing their pain.  I have heard Dr. Altchek from New York report in meetings that he thinks biceps tenodesis may be an option, but one he reserves for those who fail a SLAP repair.   Still, I have to wonder what the long term effects of the biceps tenodesis will do on this patient population as well.  Will the increased superior humeral head cause rotator cuff pathology or degenerative changes?  Only time will tell.

There is also recent chatter about the use of the biceps tenodesis procedure in overhead athletes and the risk of humeral head fracture.  This is a consequence that must be considered.

Noted orthopedist, Dr. James Andrews was recently asked about the biceps and the potential for biceps tenodesis, to which he replied “The biceps is there for a purpose — it’s too intrinsically associated with the shoulder joint.  Until we know what the real function of it is, we’re stabbing in the dark.”  When asked if a biceps tenodesis is the answer to athletes returning to sport, similar to a Tommy John procedure, he replied “With Tommy John surgery, we’re actually restoring anatomy. In the case of biceps tenodesis, you’re deleting anatomy.”

SEE ALSO: Dr. Lyle Cain from Dr. Andrews’ American Sports Medicine Institute discusses some of the facts and fiction related to the biceps tenodesis surgery.

So, sadly, I don’t think we all learned a great new way “get athletes back in the game sooner following shoulder injuries” like the Science Direct title would suggest.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but I would have to agree with Dr. Andrews, I always prefer procedures that restore anatomy when possible.  Don’t get me wrong, a biceps tenodesis has it’s place.  But I’m not sure if it is the magical secret to getting athletes back faster, there just has to be some consequences.

What has your experience been?  Have you seen many athletes opt for a biceps tenodesis rather than a SLAP repair?

 

 

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HRV, Biomechanics of the Lunge, Rotational Power in Athletes

This week’s Stuff You Should Read comes from Chris Beardsley, T-Nation, and Pete Holman.

ShoulderSeminar.com, Inner Circle, and RehabWebinars.com Updates

My huge sale on ShoulderSeminar.com rages on!  Thanks for those that have joined already, you are going to really enjoy the next 7 weeks of my online program.  Get $150 off the price of enrollment plus free access to RehabWebinars.com if you sign up be the end of October.  Don’t forget it is worth 20 CEUs for the NSCA and 21 for the NATA and MA state APTA.  Click here to learn more about the limited time offer.

My next Inner Circle webinar will be on How I Use Kettlebells in Shoulder Rehabilitation.  This isn’t going to be how traditional kettlebell exercises, like swings, can be used for shoulder work, but rather how I use kettlebells as a tool to strengthen and enhance stability of the shoulder for people with injuries.  I’m still trying to solidify a date and time but will post the info when scheduled in the Inner Circle Dashboard.  Check it out and click here to learn more about the Inner Circle.

We had several new webinars this week featuring Pete Holman, PT, CSCS.  Pete is the Director of Rip Training at TRX and shares three webinars on some really cool exercises techniques to train rotational power in athletes, to strengthen the posterior chain, and to focus on shoulder prehab work.   Good stuff and really great technique demonstrations.  I’ll be featuring a post with Pete next week here at MikeReinold.com.   Click here to learn more about RehabWebinars.com.

 

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How does the weight used change the effect of lunges?

Chris Beardsley of Strength and Conditioning Research has a very thorough breakdown of the biomechanics of adding weight to the lunge.  This is a really great article that outlines the role of the hip extensors during the forward lunge.

 

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HRV Roundtable

What do you get when you get 8 experts on heart rate variability training to sit around a round table and discuss HRV?  A HRV roundtable discussion!  This is an information article for those new to using HRV, which is something to explore as we learn more and more about recovery, stress, and the impact on performance.  You should read this to start thinking about how you can use HRV to get the most out of your clients and athletes.

 

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Biomechanics of TRX Squat Variations

The TRX Suspension System is a pretty cool piece of exercise equipment that has some obvious (i.e. rows!) and not so obvious uses.  The strength community has shown us tons of great uses of the TRX, but I also personally use the TRX many ways within my rehabilitation programs.

Here is a video of some simple variations to the squat that can be performed by using the TRX.  I’ll explain more about why I use these TRX squat variations below, but take a look at the clip first:

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Muscle Activity During Squats

Biomechanical studies have shown that altering your center of gravity impacts the resultant muscle activity ratios between the quadriceps and hamstrings.  This was demonstrated well in the classic 1996 study by Wilk, Escamilla, and Fleisig publish in AJSM.  The authors compared squatting and leg press and found that the plane of orientation of the body produced a significant effect on muscle activity.

During the upright squat, when the center of gravity is fairly neutral, the quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups produced a relative amount of co-conraction during the concentric portion of the exercise:

EMG Squat

 

However, when the leg press was performed and the center of gravity was positioned posteriorly, the contribution of hamstrings to the activity was significantly less:

EMG Leg Press

 

Basically when performing an exercise where you center of gravity is posterior, such as a leg press or wall squat, you will increase quadriceps activity and decrease hamstring activity.  Conversely, if you lean forward during a squatting motion, you will increase the hamstrings contribution.  Lastly, a neutral squat with a neutral center of gravity will produce co-contraction of the two muscles.

 

TRX Squat Variations

These biomechanical findings can be used to alter the ratio of quadriceps to hamstrings during the squat as needed.  Clinically, there are times during the rehabilitation process where this may be beneficial.

For example, a patient recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery may benefit from performing neutral squats to facilitate co-contraction and stability of the knee. A patient with a PCL injury may want to perform squats from to neutral to posterior to their center of gravity to reduce hamstring contribution and the potential for posterior shear forces.  If you want to facilitate posterior chain involvement during the squat and emphasize hip extension, you may want to lean forward and work on this motor control pattern.

As you can see there are a lot of potential clinical implications.

Using the TRX to perform these squats is very helpful, expecially during the early phases of rehabilitation.  The TRX suspension system can take some weight off the squat, enhance balance so the patient can shift their center of gravity more anterior or posterior, and serves as what I like to call “training wheels” to help perform a squat correctly when movement dysfunction exists.  Just a small reduction in body weight can enhance motor control and help movement quality during the squat.  As the person’s motor control improves, they can ween off the TRX “training wheels.”

What do you think?  How have you used the TRX during rehab?  These are just a few examples of how using the TRX suspension system can help us tweak an exercise like the squat.  Understanding the biomechanics of the squat and what happens on the inside during these TRX squat variations will help us build better programs for our patients and clients.

 

 

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The Influence of Pelvic Position on Lower Extremity Stretching

Inner Circle Premium Content

The latest webinar recording for Inner Circle members is now available below.

 

The Influence of Pelvic Position of Lower Extremity Stretching

The below webinar will help you understand:

  • Why lower extremity stretching is essentially flawed
  • Why we aren’t always in neutral position or symmetrical
  • The influence of pelvic tilt on pelvic position
  • Simple assessments to see if you are “neutral”
  • How to adjust stretches to assure proper form and alignment
  • How to individualize lower extremity stretching based on pelvic alignement
  • What to avoid while stretching to maximize movement quality

 

To access the webinar, please be sure you are logged in and are a member of the Inner Circle program.  If you are currently logged in, you will see the webinar below.  If not, please log in below and then scroll down to the “webinar archives” section.  If you are not a member, learn more and subscribe to Mike Reinold’s Inner Circle program.

Inner Circle Log in:

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[Content protected for Inner Circle members only]

 

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What has the Biggest Impact on Outcomes Following ACL Reconstruction Surgery?

Loss of knee extensionIt is no surprise that loss of motion is one of the biggest factors in patient satisfaction following ACL reconstruction surgery, specifically loss of knee extension.  In addition to the limitations in functional activities that occur with loss of knee extension, we have also discussed some of the risk factors of loss of motion following ACL reconstruction.

Loss of knee extension has a dramatic impact on gait, muscle activity, and normal tibiofemoral and patellofemoral arthrokinematics.

Imagine not being able to straighten your knee out.  You can’t lock out your knee for stability.  You naturally will shift your weight to the other extremity and overload your other knee, hip, and probably even your back.  Your quad and hamstring never get to shut off and relax.  Your patellar tendon will probably be on fire, and your patella will always be engaged and taking stress.

I can definitely see why patient satisfaction would be poor if you had long term loss of motion following ACL reconstruction!

Impact of Loss of Motion on the Development of Arthritis

In addition to poor patient satisfaction, recent research has shown that loss of motion following ACL reconstruction also results in the development of osteoarthritis.  In a recent study in AJSM, Shelbourne et al followed 780 patients for a mean of over 10 years.  They showed that of the group of patients that had normal motion on follow up examination, 29% exhibited signs of osteoarthritis on radiographs.  Conversely, 47% of the group that showed loss of motion had developed osteoarthritis.

This makes perfect sense as your arthrokinematics, center of rotation of the joint, and tibiofemoral and patellofemoral contact pressure will be altered.

How Much Loss of Extension is Significant?

More importantly, the authors also showed that even a loss of 3-5 degrees of motion had a significant impact on both patient satisfaction and the development of early arthritis.  Those subjectives that exhibited greater than a 5 degree loss of motion had an even more dramatic impact.

According to DeCarlo and Sell, the average amount of knee extension in healthy individuals is 5 degrees of hyperextension, with 95% of individuals demonstrating some amount of hyperextension in the knee.

Taking this into consideration, we should challenge the common belief that 0 degrees of knee extension is “normal.”  Individuals with 5 degrees of knee hyperextension that only restored their knee to 0 degrees of extension after ACL reconstruction surgery have a significantly greater chance of developing early osteoarthritis.

Clinical Implications

Based on these recent studies, there are bunch of clinical implications that we should all consider.  Here are just a few that I thought of right away:

  • Timing of ACL reconstruction surgery and pre-operative rehabilitation is important to settle down the knee, reduce swelling, and most importantly restore range of motion.
  • Knee extension should be restored as soon as possible after surgery, and should be one of the focuses of the initial postoperative phase
  • Even a small 3-5 degree loss of either extension of flexion range of motion has a significant impact
  • Most patients will have a certain degree of hyperextension, restoring a person to 0 degrees of knee extension is likely not enough
  • For those training post-ACL rehab clients, keep this in mind if the individual does not have full motion.  Advancing to exercises with high tibiofemoral and patellofemoral compressive and sheer forces before achieving full knee motion should be performed with caution.
  • Each patient should be assessed individually and range of motion should be restored to their unique assessment
This information also shows the importance of skilled therapy following ACL reconstruction, despite some of the studies that may show that home exercise is equally as effective.  If loss of the motion has the biggest impact on outcomes following ACL reconstruction, the development of osteoarthritis, and the subsequent health care costs, this strengthens the need for skilled manual therapy during the postopertaive rehabilitation process.

In regard to what to do with the tight person, I’ll work on a future post that discusses how I assess and treat loss of knee extension range of motion, but in the meantime I would love to hear what you think about this information and what you do with these patients.

The Influence of Anterior Pelvic Tilt on Hip Flexion Mobility

Several months ago I featured a couple of posts discussing the importance of hip flexion strength and how to assess and enhance hip flexion strength.  Since then, I have receive a lot of feedback from people saying that they have been working on their hip flexion strength but feel that they still don’t have good functional hip flexion strength when doing the step over FMS test or the functional hip flexion test:

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There is one more reason that you may be struggling with this in addition to the lack of strength and dynamic stability that I previously discussed that centers around mobility.

If you look at the picture below of Janda’s lower body cross syndrome, what do you notice about the position of the hip?

 

Janda Lower Body Cross Syndrome

 

Because the pelvis is already anteriorly tilted, the horizon (your leg perpendicular to the ground) is not really 90 degrees of hip flexion.  You are starting the movement already in a position of hip flexion, so would naturally have less ability to flex the hips.  You may have the same exact amount of hip flexion as someone else, but if you are starting in a flexed position, you would have the illusion that you actually have less.

Simplifying this and the numbers to make it easy to understand, take a look at the picture below.  See how the hip is sitting in 45 degrees of flexion because of the anterior pelvic tilt.  That means if you raise the hip up 45 degrees, you are actually in about 90 degrees of hip flexion.

 

Anterior Pelvic Tilt

 

Many people have told me that they started to work hip hip stretches and even hip capsular stretches to increase their hip flexion.  One could argue that you actually wouldn’t want to do this.  If you don’t improve your pelvic tilt first, then you may actually be overstretching your muscles and joint.

Rather, focus on your anterior pelvic tilt by strengthen the core, glutes, and hamstrings while working on lengthening the hip flexors and back extensors.  This is a simplistic view of correcting an anterior pelvic tilt but a good start in the right direction.

This isn’t rocket science, but something to consider.  Sometimes we get in trouble by assuming that the body is perfectly aligned in neutral and that raising the leg parallel to the ground is 90 degrees when it isn’t always the case.

 

4 Things We Are Doing Wrong with Rehab

Today’s guest post comes from Dean Somerset discussing 4 things he thinks we are doing wrong with rehab.  Great job Dean, I always love reading your stuff!  If you want to hear more from Dean (and you definitely should!) I recommend you check out Dean’s new Post-Rehab Essentials program.  It is over 12 hours of great content.  I am still reviewing but have enjoyed it so far, I’ll try to post a full review once I get a chance to finish it all!

4 Things We Are Doing Wrong With Rehab

I’ve built up a profession working the grey zone between where physiotherapists and traditional rehabilitation professionals leave off with their patients and where strength coaches and persona trainers begin. There’s a definite gap between the two, and hopefully more and more trainers and rehab professionals will be able to bridge this gap to effectively help their clients and patients, respectively, through the entire continuum of wellness. Today’s post will hopefully show a few ways to bridge the gap in a more practical sense for some of the common things that aren’t being adequately addressed by either side.

#1. Not looking at foot mechanics – For Everything

A simple test I use with a lot my classes: I get everyone to put their arms overhead as straight and high as possible with a tall and upright posture. Then I have them make their upper back kyphotic, and try to do the same thing, and watch everyone’s expression as they wind up getting half the range of motion necessary. Then I have them do both a posterior and anterior pelvic tilt and see what happens. Yep, you guessed it, less range of motion. As the grande finale, I have them stand tall, and then simply pronate their feet to see what effect it has on their shoulder range of motion. Most if not all involved, will have some reduction in their ability to abduct their arms. Give it a try and see what happens.

Mike made an excellent post a few months back about the kinetic chain ripple effect versus the kinetic chain, and this is an excellent example of that concept. When the spine was kyphotic, it had the most dramatic effect on shoulder mechanics than when the foot was pronated, but the effect was still there, much like ripples in the lake from a stone hitting the surface on the other shore. This shows that even if the foot isn’t directly involved in a lot of issues with the body that it may in fact be indirectly involved with issues of the knee, hip, spine, and even shoulder and neck.

Kinetic Chain Ripple Effect

By checking to see if the foot has a fallen, normal or high arch structure to it, as well as if any arch alterations are structural in nature (the bones are formed that way) versus postural in nature (the muscles holding the ankle are weak) can allow a practitioner to get one more piece to the puzzle. If the arch has fallen due to weak muscle support through both the tibialis posterior and the compound effect of a weak greater hallicus longus, you can train the muscles of the foot to stabilize and resist collapsing, which would prevent the internal rotation of the tibia, and everything that would result up the chain.

Altered foot mechanics can affect every movement, from heavy deadlifting (my drug of choice) to how you throw a fast ball, to how at risk you are of low back pain.

#2. Not watching runners’ stride and technique

I’m fortunate enough to have been able to work with a lot of distance runners, even though I consider distance running one of the most pointless activities you could ever do. Seriously, if you have that far to go, drive there. You get a cup holder and air conditioning. Be that as it may, I’ve been able to do hundreds of run stride analyses clients, from beginners looking to complete their first 5km race, to elite marathon and ultra marathon runners looking to shave time, and even those who had repetitive strain issues with their legs and needed to know why. You can see amazing things happen when you use even a basic digital video camera and slow down the replay to watch things like calcaneal eversion, midfoot pronation, valgus collapse, tibial rotation (both internal and external), pelvic stability on impact, foot strike mechanics, knee position and angle on impact, stride length and frequency, and even whether they are in the right shoe for their stride or not. We could debate barefoot versus shod running forever, but I’ll just leave it to say that barefoot isn’t for everyone, and typical running shoes aren’t for everyone either.

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A lot of repetitive strain injuries in runners could be corrected by simply altering their run mechanics, much like a golfer can reduce their incidence of golfers elbow and low back pain by receiving coaching on proper swing mechanics. This could be as simple as using a hand-held video camera to show real-time feedback about performance, or as complex as using a DartFish software package to analyze force vectors and angle and rate of pronation, but in each situation it would result in an improvement in run stride, which would reduce the stress on the involved tissues, and allow runners to keep running with less pain, and probably while going faster.

It’s one thing to watch someone in static posture, and another entirely different beast to watch them move in their desired activity. By simply working on the muscles, joints, and fascia, we’re missing the boat on how their activities are impacting those tissues and what can be done about it. Athletes in most sports that involve running in one way or another (basketball, soccer, field hockey, and to a lesser degree football and baseball) would benefit from having someone analyze their gait and see where there may be some energy leaks and ways to decrease risk of injury.

#3. Not checking breathing mechanics

With the majority of upper body muscles attaching in one way or another to the rib cage, it would be common sense to think that an alteration in breathing mechanics could alter not only core function, but also scapular, glenohumeral, cervical, and potentially even lumbopelvic and lower leg function. If a client isn’t breathing properly through one side of their lungs, they may wind up getting side stitches on the opposite side as it works extra hard to compensate during forced heavy breathing. If they aren’t using their diaphragm properly, they may get neck cramping as their scalene compensate for the short-comings, and so on. On top of that, if the ribs cannot expand and contract properly, it will affect the ability of the thoracic spine to extend and rotate, which will affect the mechanics of the above-mentioned body parts. If they are collapsing into kyphosis, it will alter breathing capacity, which will alter performance and lead to further postural and repetitive strain issues.

Here’s an example of a runner who came in to see me with shoulder pain during her runs.

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Notice how the rib cage elevates, but doesn’t actually expand width-wise? Here’s what she looked like after two weeks of doing three breathing exercises each day.

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She’s still restricted, but using her lower ribs more instead of just relying on scalenes and upper ribs to do her breathing. This is a woman who can run at 10 miles an hour for ever and hold a conversation with you, and has won marathons, Death Races, ultra marathons, and 50-100 mile trail running races galore, all while only using about one third of her lungs. She shaved 6 minutes off her personal best marathon time by only altering her breathing mechanics and stretching her thoracic spine through extension and rotation.

#4. Not communicating with everyone involved

I’ve been able to work with a lot of good rehab professionals who have been willing to discuss their patients’ status and ways to help them out in our training sessions, and also take my observations and questions in stride. I’ve also worked with a few who weren’t so willing to work with me, and as a result the quality of care wasn’t as good, and the results that the client was able to get were less than optimal.

One of the first questions I ask any rehab professional when it comes to any workouts I’m going to have them do is quite simply “What do you want me to focus on, and what should I avoid?” Essentially, I’m always going to defer to the direction of the doctor or physiotherapist or chiropractors’ directives, and work my program around their guidelines. I may question certain aspects based on the results of my assessments, and occasionally can give them some new information, but most of the time my questioning is to get more information and to learn more from another set of eyes and educational background.

The same could be said in the reverse direction. If your patient is working with a personal trainer or strength coach, reach out to them and ask to discuss their training program. Odds are you can both come to a collaborative conclusion that will only benefit that patient, and result in them getting healthier faster and make you look good to everyone involved. One example stands out in my mind of a client who came in with really severe brachial plexus impingement in both arms, had been to physiotherapists and chiropractors, and seen no relief. I wanted to talk with her neurologist to see if there was anything that I should work on or avoid, and his response was amazing.

“I don’t know, just get her to lose some weight and increase her flexibility. If she says it hurts, move on to something else.”

I then proceeded to refer her on to a really good physiotherapist in my area who checked her out and gave some very good and specific recommendations, and within 6 weeks her pain was nearly half of what it was. The combined approach will always work best.

Strength coaches and personal trainers who don’t have an established network of health care practitioners scare me, and they should scare anyone who is willing to work with a trainer, especially if they already have specific medical or injury concerns. I’ve had countless situations where I needed a second opinion and referred a client out to get an assessment and report back on what they can and can’t do, and as a result we’ve been able to train longer and avoid aggravating issues further. I’m paranoid about making client safety an issue, because if that client isn’t able to train and I can’t find a way to make them better, it affects my bank account at the end of the month, and my reputation as a whole. Having medical referral networks makes trainers money, and increases their respect and reputation. Not having qualified professionals they can ask for help makes them a liability.

 

For more great information from Dean, be sure to check out his Post Rehab Essentials Program.  It’s a 12-hour program that goes over great topics such as above.  It is a great resource for the personal trainers that deal with people coming off of injuries.

Post Rehab Essentials