Sports Training

 

rugby bad bulgarians

Can anyone spot the errors in these rugby players single leg squats?

Since the start of 2016 I have been helping the Devon Ladies Cricket team prepare for their upcoming tour of South Africa by advising on their strength and conditioning sessions at Exeter University’s High Performance centre. It’s been great to be part of such a hard working group of athletes focussed on improving and being the best that they can be. The team at Exeter Uni has devised a great strength and conditioning program for the girls and despite being pushed hard they don’t complain, instead they grit their teeth and find even greater levels of performance.

However the one area where Chiropractic rehab has been particularly helpful is core stability training including glute muscle strengthening. The girls biggest deficits on assessment were rotational instability of their trunk and glute/hip control of squat/lunge patterns. Despite their high levels of fitness and sport specific skill they are still in need of plenty of supervised “core” work to take their fitness to the next level.

squat with heel raise

The picture above represents one (limited ankle mobility) of many mistakes I see on a day to day basis in gyms from people of all levels of fitness. Subtle corrections in technique can make all the difference in an exercise being great for you instead of causing a repetitive strain injury. The Ladies cricket team and several of the other sports teams training at the uni are no different to the general public in the technique mistakes they commonly make.

trx correction

This is why the best personal trainers and strength coaches are worth their weight in gold. They don’t just throw a program at you with loads of squats, deadlifts etc and motivate you to lift more, run faster etc. Instead they start with an assessment of your capabilities, identifying your strengths and weaknesses and then creating a routine that works on improving your weaknesses not just enhancing your strengths. They are always on your case about technique because they know that good technique = fewer injuries and fewer injuries = more consistent training, this then leads to better results as you can string together more uninterrupted blocks of good quality training and competing.

Lots of people seem to be aware of the need for more core stability these days and stronger glutes. Yet these are the very exercises that I see most often performed incorrectly in many cases resulting in little to no glute or core activation even though technically the individual is doing a “core” or “glute” exercise. Remember just because the little picture on the machine says its for your glutes it doesn’t mean any which way you do the exercise your glutes will get stronger.

lunge correction

Unfortunately so few instructors in gyms are sufficiently trained on exercise technique to help you out in this regard. My Chiropractic clinic is based at the Westbank Healthy Living centre in Exminster, mainly because it’s one of the few gyms around that has properly trained staff who I can trust to refer my patients to for rehab and personal training. After Easter we are putting together an exciting new fitness class for adults of any age and fitness level.

The classes will be in 6 week blocks for up to 8 people per class. Week 1 will consist of assessment and basic home exercise plans will be created for each individual based on their identified needs. The subsequent 5 weeks of classes will be supervised rehabilitation training sessions focussed on improving whatever mobility, stability and motor control issues that were identified in the assessment. The total cost for this 6 week exercise course with personalised program is just £60. To book your place or enquire for more details email Paul Hindle: exsicc@gmail.com

 

Super Strong Abs

situps

The idea that sit-ups are bad for your back has been around a long time now, or so I thought. Stuart McGill first published his research condemning loaded spinal flexion exercises in 1998. Yet it’s nearly 2016 and still everytime I go into a gym I see multiple people doing “back breaking” sit-up type exercises so I thought I’d throw this blog out there and hopefully convert a few more people into some healthier habits for the spine.

Why are sit-ups bad? McGill’s research, along with several other researchers, show a gradual delamination of the annulus fibrosis connective tissue that forms the protective ringed layer of our intervertebral discs with repetitive lumar flexion. In simple terms think of the disc as being arranged like the rings of a tree, each lumbar flexion movement you do (even putting your socks on) will slightly damage the outer layers of these rings. Some people can get away with lots others breakdown quicker, thank your genetics for that part!

Therefore the more lumbar flexions you perform in a lifetime and especially if they are loaded with more weight/force like a sit up or lifting with a bent spine then the sooner your discs will wear out and bulge or herniate resulting in pain (when inflamed). You can’t and shouldn’t completely avoid lumbar flexion in everyday life but you’re supposed to go to the gym to make yourself healthier so why add more wear and tear to your back instead?

vsits

Sit-ups and similar exercises such as: hugging your knees to your chest, bending to touch your toes, V-sits (see picture above), oblique crunches, swiss ball crunches, bosu ball crunches, leg press machine and burpees all increase the degeneration of your lumbar discs. The same goes for bad technique on exercises like; squats, deadlifts, olympic lifts, lat pulldowns, seated rows, bench press, bicep curls, cycling, rowing, running, x-trainer etc. Hence why technique is paramount to safe, effective exercise.

So what exercises can you do instead? Well the second list of exercises in the above paragraph can all be done safely with good technique as mentioned already. As for the first list why not try any of the following; prayer stretch (child pose in yoga), cat stretch, McGill crunches, Bird dog, plank, side plank, rolling patterns, wood chops (cable), kettle bell swings, overhead squats, “stirring the pot“, prone rollouts, plank rotations, press ups, TRX exercises, alternate leg roman chair and battling ropes.

Many of the above exercises are trying to push you into lumbar (low back) extension, or in some cases, flexion. The aim is too resist this by stiffening all your abdominal and back muscles (not hollowing your spine like Pilates) to maintain a neutral spine, for example, the plank (see picture below). Please note I have seen many people do these exercises with extended lumbar spines which completely defeats the point of them, technique, technique, technique!

plank

The last point with many of these exercises especially the ones with movement like squats, deadlift etc is that they require good hip and ankle mobility to reduce the load on your back and knees. If you are not sufficiently mobile in these areas I would strongly recommend working on that before you lift heavy weights or attempt to do “ass to grass” movements. There is no shame in putting some plates under your heels when squatting if your ankles/calves are too stiff.

squat with heel raise