rehab

Why injury prevention and improving performance are one in the same.

Why injury prevention and improving performance are one in the same.

It interests me how injury prevention and training for performance are viewed at opposite ends of the training spectrum.

People often associate injury prevention with low level corrective exercises, foam rolling, and stretching, where performance enhancement is associated with lifting heavy, jumping, sprinting, and a whole heap of other cool stuff.

I genuinely believe that this view is flawed, and that not only can each of these training methods contribute to both injury prevention and improving performance simultaneously, but that preventing injuries is arguably the most important thing we can be doing toimprove performance.

Hunter Bennett Performance

 

How can injury prevention improve performance?

While this point is actually pretty simple (and logical) if we think about it, it often gets forgotten.

If we are injured, we can’t train.

If we can’t train, we can improve our performance.

See, simple.

Although if we were to break it down a little further, we can see that injuries impact our ability to train both in the gym and on the field. This will therefore limit our ability to improve strength and power performance, and skill development (both of which contribute significantly to performance).

Secondly, in a team sport scenario, if you can’t compete with your best players on the field, your chances of winning our reduced. As such, in season injuries can negatively affect an entire team’s performance.

As such, keeping your players healthy and able to train is paramount, and should be one of the key focuses of any strength and conditioning program.

Furthermore, those exercises that are perceived as ‘low-level’ (AKA corrective exercises, mobility exercises etc.) play an important role in maintain and improving joint mobility, trunk stability, and movement quality. These qualities can directly influence our ability to express power and strength, and subsequently our ability to perform at a high level.

So these exercises therefore play an important role in maximising performance, outside of reducing injuries.

 

How can performance based training reduce injury risk?

Now, when most people think of jumps, cleans, squats, and deadlifts, they don’t automatically think of injury prevention BUT they should.

Strength training using basic exercises builds tissue integrity. This applies to both muscle and connective tissue (tendons). By building tissue integrity, we improve the capacity of a given tissue to handle load, and produce and resist force. This alone improves our resilience to the likelihood of developing injuries of those tissues.

Furthermore, improving strength around specific joints can improve joint stability, which can consequently reduce the load absorbed by passive joint structures (ligaments and joint capsule). This can significantly reduce our risk developing ligament or joint injuries.

In a similar fashion, both jumps and other power based movements will not only improve our ability to produce force rapidly (AKA improve explosive power), they will also improve our ability to jump and land efficiently. This is extremely important as these movements produce a significant amount of eccentric force loading through the muscle tissue.

By improving both our ability to manage this eccentric force, and improving our ability to jump and land from a skill based perspective, we can limit our risk of injury during these highly demanding movements.

 

So, to summarize

Not only is mobility and flexibility important from an injury prevention perspective, but also a force production perspective. By improving our capacity to produce force efficiently during movement, these ‘corrective’ type exercises can lead to an improvement in physical performance.

Strength and power based movements have the capacity to improve muscle and joint integrity, which can lead to a reduced risk of injury of those tissues.

Furthermore, by improving our ability to perform skill based explosive movements such as jumps and bounds, we can reduce risk of injury occurrence during those movements.

 

So: Training is injury prevention AND injury prevention is training (Prioritise BOTH)

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Do Hip Thrusts for Posterior Chain Strength and Power

I recently wrote a post on low bar vs high bar squatting (you can read it HERE if you’re interested), where I claimed (a claim I still stand by) that one of the few truths within the health industry is that strong and active glutes are integral to low back health.

While making this claim is all well and good, I thought there was a little more I could do in regards to discussing how to increase glute strength.

As a result we have this blog post.

So here we go.

Dem glutes

Dem glutes

 

The glutes are one of the largest muscle groups on the posterior chain. They are powerful hip extensors, which explains why having strong glutes can seriously improve our athletic performance (think sprinting, bounding, and jumping).

While I have covered the importance of glute activation extensively (HERE), I have not talked about improving glute strength nearly enough.

 

Enter the Hip Thrust

The hip thrust is a posterior chain dominant exercise that focuses on hip extension strength specifically.

The hip thrust was made famous by the Glute guy himself, Bret Contreras. Since its meteoric rise in popularity, hip thrust strength has been demonstrated to have a direct relationship to a number of performance measures, with specific emphasis on sprint speed and measures of horizontal power (think broad jumps etc.).

To perform the hip thrust, all you need is a bench and some glutes (for an example check out the video below).

 

While it looks quite simple, there are a few key cues that allow you to maximise the benefits of hip thrusts.

1.       Keep your heels flat on the ground

2.       Keep the spine neutral by bracing your abs HARD (avoid excessive lumbar extension in the bottom position)

3.       Squeeze glutes HARD

Hip thrusts are an awesome exercise to develop posterior chain strength and power. As a bonus, they are extremely easy to load. You can use resistance bands, barbells, or even weight plates as a way to add external resistance to the hip thrust, making it an extremely versatile (and beneficial) exercise.

 

Programming Considerations

I typically use the hip thrust as an accessory exercise on my lower body days after either squats or deadlifts.

I use pretty typical loading parameters dependant on my current goal, for example if I am training for strength I might use a 6x4 set and rep scheme, whereas if I am training for hypertrophy and GPP, I might use a 4x10 set and rep scheme.

As I have already mentioned, the hip thrust is a great way to build posterior chain strength and power while also promoting spinal health.

As an added bonus, hip thrusts can be a useful tool to help build that ghetto booty you have always wanted.

 

Contact me if you have any questions!

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Fire up those Glutes! Glute Activation for Health and Performance.

I’m sure at one time or another you have all heard the term ‘Glute Activation’ thrown around. But really, what does that mean, and how does it apply training and athletic performance?

Just a brief background on two of those Gluteal muscles:

Gluteus Maximus, is a prime mover during hip extension (think jumping, sprinting, bounding), and plays an important role in providing stability to the lumbo-pelvic region.

Gluteus Medius, anatomically acts as an abductor of the femur but in a more functional manner provides stability to the hip and knee during single leg stance, and can play a role in lateral movement, whilst also stabilising the lumbo-pelvic region.

GLUTES!

GLUTES!

 

So what does this jargon mean?

It means that strong glutes have the potential to improve sport performance by making us faster, jump higher, and change direction quicker.

Just steering away from the sport performance side of things a little, it also means that they can provide stability to the hip, reducing load through the lumbar spine, which has the potential to improve or reduce the risk of developing lower back pain.

Now this is all well and good, but we have a bit of an issue.

Glute Amnesia (You can thank the great Mike Boyle for the term).

What is glute amnesia? Well it’s a term coined to describe the inhibited and atrophied glutes that 90% (approximate estimation...) of the population exhibit. Their Gluteal muscles have literally forgotten how to work! This is most likely a result of the increases in sedentary behaviour (sitting) that our modern lifestyle promotes. Sitting leaves the glutes in a lengthened, stretched out position. Spending a lot of time in this position results in them receiving a reduced neural stimulus, which leads to neural inhibition (they 'forget' how to work!)

And as an additional side effect of our sedentary behavior, is that not only have they forgotten how to work - they don't get the opportunity to work, which leads to both weakness and muscular atrophy!

This can lead to reduced athletic performance, greater risk of soft tissue injury through the development of compensation patterns, and low back pain.

So what can we do about it? We need to learn to activate and use those glutes!

How do we fire up the Glutes?

The introduction of glute activation exercises is a good start. A simple circuit of the following 3 exercise in your warm ups can go a long way to improving glute activation. This means they will be working more effectively during your workout, improving their strength development and potential for muscular hypertrophy.

Prone hip extension

Now the key here is to really focus on ‘feeling’ glute max produce the movement, while limiting the load on the hamstrings. If you feel the hamstrings working more than the glutes, give it a go with the knee bent to 90 degrees which will take the hamstring out of the equation.

 

Glute Bridge

Similar again, we really want the glutes to drive this movement, with no real feeling in the hamstrings. This can be done by squeezing your butt as hard as you can – imagine your cracking a walnut!

To make sure the hamstrings are staying quiet, you can physically touch the muscle belly of the hamstring during the movement. If it feels soft it means glutes are the main drivers of the movement.

 

X-band Walk

 

This is a great way to fire up gluteus medius. A key is to make sure is that you are feeling it in the glutes. If you feel fatigue in front of the hip, its most likely TFL driving the movement. This can be changed by stepping laterally and backwards slightly, to get a bit more hip extension involved in the movement. You want to feel the burn just posterior of the hip joint.

 

So a potential Glute Activation Circuit may look something like this

Exercise 1A: Prone Hip Extension x12/side
Exercise 1B: Glute Bridge x12
Exercise 1C: X-Band Walk x12/side

Repeat 3 times.

Hope this has provided a bit of info on the importance of the glutes, and a good way to warm them up!

If you are unsure where to start, contact me below!

 

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Are you hamstrings actually tight? Or is it a symptom of a greater problem?

One of the most common complaints that I hear is ‘I have tight hamstrings’.

And the most common cure I see?

People stretching their hamstrings.

But even with all this chronic stretching, people often still feel as if their strings are tight? Which leads us to the question, are your hamstrings actually tight?

And the answer, like with so many things health and fitness related, isn’t a particularly good one.

Probably, maybe, sort of ..... But that’s not actually the issue.

Muscle tightness vs Misalignment

If someone constantly complains of tight hamstrings you should have a look at their pelvic alignment. I would put my money on them having some excessive anterior pelvic tilt (APT).

APT describes the forward ‘tilt’ of the pelvis when looked at from the side. Whilst slight APT is actually the norm in majority of the population, it is often worsened by excessive time spent in the seated position, and can have an impact on the hamstrings. Excessive APT results in someone kind of looking like Donald duck, with the pelvis tilted very far forward.

Hunter Bennett Performance. Tight hamstrings, anterior pelvic tilt, APT, posture, rehab, lordosis

 

If you have a look at a pelvis with significant anterior tilt, you can begin to see why the hamstrings may feel tight. As they attach to the pelvis, when it is anteriorly tilted, they are placed in a lengthened position, hence the feeling of tightness. Now as they are already lengthened, is stretching them (trying to make them longer) going to improve the problem?

No. In fact, it may even do the opposite, potentially worsening the already apparent APT. 

So rather than tight, we should think long. Long and weak, as they do not have the strength to maintain normal pelvic positioning.

Whilst weak hamstrings are a potential contributor, we also need to look at the other muscles that act on the pelvis.

On the front of the body we have quite a few muscles that act on the pelvis, with the hip flexors and knee extensors the two most likely to be pulling the pelvis into anterior tilt. Now these muscles here are most likely tight in the way people think of tight muscles. As in they are short and stiff. What I mean by short and stiff, is that they are in a shortened position due to sedentary activity, and stiff as they rarely get used in a lengthened position, causing them to become tight and immobile.

It is these muscles that are going to require stretching and myofascial release to restore length and mobility, and hopefully help return the pelvis to a more neutral position.

With this it comes back to proper assessment and ensuring that we treat problems and not symptoms. In this case we can see that tight feeling hamstrings are the symptom, and by stretching them, they may feel better acutely but we are not actually treating the problem that is causing the sensation of tightness, being the pelvic position. Always look into a symptom in depth to try and establish its cause, rather than trying to treat it as a problem.

 

If you feel like you this article applies to you, and are unsure of how to deal with it I can help you here!

Exercise Regressions and Progressions. Why regressing can be progressing.

The other day I was at the gym training and got caught watching an individual perform TRX push ups with god awful (I mean GOD AWFUL) form. We’re talking severe hyperextension of the lower back, scaps winging all over the place and approximately zero stability anywhere.

Not that TRX push ups are a bad exercise, it’s just they were obviously far to advanced for this particular individual. It got me thinking though. I wonder how many people see an exercise on youtube, at a seminar, or on a site lie t-nation, and go and try it out the next day, and see no improvements in themselves because the exercise is far to advanced for them to complete properly.

Hunter Bennett Performance. Exercise regression, exercise progression, strength, fat loss, athletic performance, rehab

I know that advancing exercises is nice. It’s a measurable way of seeing progress, and allows us to keep clients interested by introducing 'new' exercises that train similar movements and muscle groups. But what if they are not ready to progress? It would be silly to move onto a more difficult exercise for the sake of variation alone, because they are not going to see any improvement if they can’t perform it properly.

It is OK to regress. In fact, in some scenarios a regression is progression.

Say you have someone who can’t goblet squat to depth without significant pelvic tilt and lumbar flexion. Regressing them to a goblet squat to box would be appropriate, allowing you to manage depth safely. As their capacity to perform the exercise improves (through simply performing the exercise, with additional mobility and stability exercises) you could gradually lower the box until they can perform a deep box squat without compromising spinal position. Once they are at this stage you can progress to a goblet squat, which they should be able to perform deeply and safely.

This is a fairly simple example but it shows how by regressing an exercise that someone can’t perform properly, we can progress safely and effectively.

Now I am by no means saying that we shouldn’t progress exercises, but should do so only when we are ready. And it’s a pretty simple concept. If an exercise looks like trash despite your best efforts to coach the movement, regress it. If the regression looks acceptable start there and slowly and safely build up.

You wouldn’t start doing cleans with someone who couldn’t perform an acceptable Romanian deadlift? It would be dangerous and unnecessary. And I have a feeling that those cleans would probably look like trash.

Regress to Progress.

What the research tells us about Foam Rolling

Most people have a bit of a love hate relationship with their foam roller. They seem to make you feel and move better, but tend to also cause a fair bit of discomfort. In the following little post i hope to take a brief look at foam rolling, and what the recent research tells about it

Foam rolling is a type of self-myofascial release therapy (self-massage) that has been suggested to break up adhesions between layers of fascia (the connective tissue sheath that surrounds our muscle tissue). It has also been thought to reduce the neural tone of hyperactive neural receptors within the muscle tissue, and also rehydrate muscle tissue at the cellular level through the equal redistribution of fluid. And what does that mean exactly?

Pretty much all of that is thought to lead to an acute, and over time, chronic return in Range of Motion (ROM). This ROM has often been reduced by the muscle stiffness caused by heavy exercise and repeat sedentary activity in altered postural positions (AKA sitting).

Now I need to mention that this is merely a brief overview of the POTENTIAL mechanisms that have been suggested in regards to what foam rolling MAY actually do,  and this is by no means a definite description on how foam rolling works.

Hunter Bennett Performance. Foam Rolling, Foam roller, Self myofascial release, athletic performance, rehab, strength, fat loss

 

For starters, does foam rolling actually work? What the science says.

Research on foam rolling is fairly minimal, as an intervention protocol it is difficult to regulate. How could you ensure each individual undertaking the foam rolling is actually rolling the exact same spot as everyone else, applying the same amount of pressure as everyone else, and applying that pressure for exactly the same amount of time as everyone else? Exactly, you couldn't.  Despite that a couple of studies have been published looking at the effects of foam rolling on flexibility.

Foam rolling has shown to improve flexibility acutely in a number of papers (Macdonald, 2013; Button, 2014; Halperin, 2014; Jay, 2014: Grieve, 2015), in a variety of situations, suggesting that foam rolling does have the capacity to improve passive range of motion in the short term. Interestingly, one of these studies (Jay, 2014) showed increased range of motion only lasted ~10 minutes, which means you might have to use the new found ROM or you will lose it pretty quickly.

It has also shown to improve measures of ROM chronically (Ebrahim, 2013; Mohr, 2013), with as little as two weeks of consistent foam rolling required to improve chronic flexibility.

As for the practical implications of this, we could foam roll tight, restricted tissue and expect to see immediate improvements in ROM, and if which we continue to perform consistently over time, chronic improvements in ROM.

Building on this, if we incorporate foam rolling into our warmup, and then begin to move in a way that uses this ‘new found’ ROM, we create a need to maintain these seen improvements. This is  more likely to create long term changes in ROM.

An example of this would be stiff adductors limiting squat depth. By rolling our adductors we would see an increase in ROM and therefore an increase in squat depth. By proceeding to train, using this new found depth, we would begin to build stability and strength at the ‘new’ end ROM, creating a demand to maintain it. By now improving our capacity to squat deeply whilst maintaining stability through training, we become more comfortable in this position, and are able to achieve it more comfortably over time, resulting in a reduction of chronic stiffness. If we continue to foam roll consistently during this period, we are likely to further contribute to improving ROM and reduce tissue stiffness, making more permanent changes.

Anecdotally, whilst the improvements in ROM are apparent and beneficial, it is the way that people tend to feel immediately after foam rolling stiff and adhesed tissue that I think has significant benefit. Releasing restricted tissue feels good, and performing movement unrestricted feels really good. This sense of improved and unrestricted movement starts the session on a positive, and makes movement in general more enjoyable. Don’t discount the way someone feels when performing exercise, if they feel like they are moving well and enjoy it, it can go a long way to improving adherence and performance in the gym.

 

 

 

 

References.

Ebrahim, A. W., & Elghany, A. W. A. (2013). The effect of foam roller exercise and Nanoparticle in speeding of healing of sport injuries. Journal of American Science, 6, 9.

Halperin, I., Aboodarda, S. J., Button, D. C., Andersen, L. L., & Behm, D. G. (2014). Roller massager improves range of motion of plantar flexor muscles without subsequent decreases in force parameters. International journal of sports physical therapy, 9(1), 92.

Jay, K., Sundstrup, E., Søndergaard, S. D., Behm, D., Brandt, M., Særvoll, C. A., & Andersen, L. L. (2014). Specific and cross over effects of massage for muscle soreness: randomized controlled trial. International journal of sports physical therapy, 9(1), 82-91.

MacDonald, G. Z., Button, D. C., Drinkwater, E. J., & Behm, D. G. (2014). Foam rolling as a recovery tool after an intense bout of physical activity. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46(1), 131-142.

Mohr, A.R., Long, B.C., & Goad, C.L. (2014) Effect of foam rolling and static stretching on passive hip-flexion range of motion. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation

Grieve, R., Gooodwin, F., Alfaki, M., Bourton, A. J., Jeffries, C., & Scott, H. (2014). The immediate effect of bilateral self myofascial release on the plantar surface of the feet on hamstring and lumbar spine flexibility: A pilot randomised controlled trial. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.

Button, D. C., Bradbury-Squired, D., Noftall, J., Sullivan, K., Behm, D. G., & Power, K. (2014). Roller-Massager Application to the Quadriceps and Knee-Joint Range of Motion and Neuromuscular Efficiency During a Lunge. Journal of athletic training.

 

4 Delicious Reasons for Deadlifting

Deadlifts – 4 reasons Why you should be doing them

I’m not shy about the love I have for the deadlift. If I’d have to pick a favourite exercise it would be right up the top of the list (bit hard to choose one favourite, right?). Not because I’m particularly good at them, but because as an individual exercise they provide a huge amount of benefit. Seriously, in terms of bang-for-your-buck exercises, deadlifts are king.

You can’t cheat a deadlift. Either that bar is coming off the floor or not. Sure you can quarter squat a ton of weight, but a quarter deadlift doesn’t count.

So in this little post I am going to outline a few of the reasons why I think deadlifts are hands down the most beneficial exercises you can implement into your program.

Hunter Bennett Performance. Adelaide. Deadlift Strength Fat loss


They reinforce the hip hinge

The hip hinge one of our fundamental movement patterns. It allows us to lift considerable loads through the loading of the posterior chain. This loading (if done with a neutral spine) spares our lower backs from any undue stress.

Learning to hinge at the hips is important in relation to both pulling huge ass weights off the floor, and lifting things in day to day life. By learning to stabilise the trunk in a neutral position, while applying a concentric load through the hips, we can limit stress placed on the lumbar spine, and avoid any issues associated.

Good deadlift on the right, not so good on the left. Notice the nice, neutral spine on the right.

Good deadlift on the right, not so good on the left. Notice the nice, neutral spine on the right.



Dat Posterior Chain

The posterior chain refers to the back of the body (AKA spinal erectors, glutes, hamstrings, calves). You know, all those muscles that tend to get missed during the third (or fourth? I can’t remember) chest and bicep workout for the week.

And the deadlift crushes it. Every muscle on the backside of your body is working overtime to stabilise the spine against flexion forces, extend the hips, and maintain retracted scapula. Both hitting muscles that often, and undeservedly, get neglected By training these muscles we can also reverse the negative postural deviations caused by the excessive sitting (something that a lot of us do too much of).

Not to mention the important role that the posterior chain plays in the explosive hip extension seen during sprinting and jumping. Increased strength of the posterior chain could significantly improve athletic performance by making an individual faster and more powerful.


Grip Strength

Believe it or not, hanging on to a really heavy barbell increases your ability to grip stuff. Hard. Important when doing heavy rows, chins and presses, if your grip strength is not up to scratch it can limit your improvement in heap of other exercises by giving out before the target muscles do.

Not to mention the importance a firm grip can have in day-to-day life, from unscrewing the lid off a jam jar to shaking someone’s hand.  Heck, deadlifting may actually improve first impressions by both improving your handshake quality and making you looked jacked.


They can be regressed and progressed to suit any scenario

The deadlift is extremely versatile. Want to teach someone to hip hinge but they lack the necessary mobility to deadlift from the floor? Deadlift from blocks or do rack pulls.

Have a solid deadlift but lacking single leg hip stability? Single leg deadlift variations can help.

Solid hinge but a weak upper back? Snatch grip deadlifts could be your answer.

Anywho, you get the point. Very versatile, with a heap of variations that can be implemented to target a heap of different goals.


*Bonus Point*

You look like a boss ripping a loaded barbell from the floor.

Truth.

This weeks health and fitness articles

Here are some interesting articles posted over the last week.

They are well worth a read!

 

Anterior Humeral Glide: Preventing it to keep you in the game

A great article by Dean Somerset on anterior humeral glide, and what you can do to avoid it.

Is diet coke really bad for you?

An interesting article that explains the positives and benefits of artificially sweetened soft drinks, and how they may or may not affect body composition.

Exercise variety is making you weak

A great article by Tony Gentilcore, published on T-nation discussing the positives of some exercise variety, and the negatives of too much.