Body Mechanics: Back To The Basics

running man anatomyHello and welcome back to another exciting edition of Body Mechanics. The last couple of topics we covered were related to static postural assessments and transitional movements and the importance of having our body function as one integrated unit.

Before getting into this weeks edition I just wanted to reiterate that the assessment is done without a bar or any weight for that matter. Just our body moving through space, to see how it functions. When we add weight we alter the recruitment patterns and are potentially increasing the imbalance by unwillingly strengthening it.

Since writing this article I have had the privilege to actually see quite a few people perform the transitional movements (overhead squat analysis) and I have seen many different forms and techniques. I enjoyed the process involved as it helped me to understand it a little more in depth. Furthermore, I noticed similarities in technique with different people. The one thing I can share with you about this experience is that we all have an imbalance. Great or small, we can all stand to gain a greater perspective into how our body functions through this assessment. I must warn you however, that no matter the outcome you must be willing to accept the criticism constructively. There is merit in corrective exercise, but we must accept that we are not perfect.

I want to share with you my story when it comes to muscle imbalances and corrective exercise technique. I watched a video of my own assessment and was discerned to see that my body is not firing optimally. My body has some irregular movements and compensations that occurred whilst performing the aforementioned assessments.

The video showed me footage from the anterior, posterior and lateral view of the assessment and it’s two modifications. I have an excessive forward lean that causes my squat to go from an upright angle to an excessive forward lean. Proper-SquatThis may be due to my gluteal muscles not firing properly and being weak as opposed to my hip flexors, which in my opinion are tight and overactive.

There was an improvement in my squat when the assessment was modified with the heels elevated. Although the movement does not change, it reduces the range of motion required for the calves to perform and shifts the center of gravity in the body. This shift in the COG reduces the amount of work required by the hip extensors to stabilize the torso in an upright posture. The reduced ROM minimizes the contribution of the calf muscles needed to perform the movement because the heels are elevated and is also an indication of weak ankle mobility and strength.

When we placed the hands at the hip the forward lean was consistent with the original assessment and we can correlate that with an imbalance within the hip and ankle complex. It shoots up the kinetic chain which is why my squat looks the way it does. There where a few other observations that I can nitpick at, but for todays purpose the two above will suffice. It’s better to focus on one or two things and work to improve them or be overwhelmed by a multitude of other tasks.

Now that we have identified the imbalance and how it hinders my movement, how do we go about fixing it? This is going to be a learning experience for me and I am going to have to implement a rigorous stretching program to rehabilitate and increase the ROM to allow my body to complete the required movement effectively.

I am going to start by stretching my lower extremities post exercise on a daily basis for optimum results. I plan to focus on stretches for the 250px-Anterior_Hip_Muscles_2gluteal muscles, iliacus, psoas minor/major, hamstrings, quadriceps, soleus and gastrocnemius. This consists of 6 static stretches, because the Iliacus and psoas are typically stretched harmoniously. Although the soleus is deep to the gastrocnemius, it can be isolated during stretching and this method will be applied. Six stretches held for 30 seconds with three or four repeats equates to nine to 24 minutes of stretching a day. As I progress I will hopefully have time to do it twice a day. As it stands right now, this will be my post exercise regime until I am ready to take the next step.

I believe the lower extremity stretches will help me to get back on track, however I must also stretch the upper body during the week in an effort to maintain flexibility throughout the body. One of my goals is to start doing more power lifting and if I want to be successful at it, I must increase my range of motion as well. This will be an interesting few months and as I progress I will be sure to keep you posted. Sometimes we have to take a step back and assess the situation from another perspective, only then can we truly begin to move forward.

Happy Lifting!

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6 comments for “Body Mechanics: Back To The Basics

  1. February 6, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Do you have any idea how one would stretch/strengthen ones piriformis? That’s a tough question, I know! Great read Carlos.

    • Carlos Flores
      February 9, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      The piriformis is an interesting and tricky muscle for sure. We talked about it last summer in an article I can’t remember which one.

      The piriformis is mainly responsible for lateral rotation of the femur. However it also helps to stabilize the hip joint, it also helps to abduct the hip when the hip is flexed.

      An over active piriformis will lead to a toe out gait, meaning the individual will walk with toes pointing out rather then forward. This is common for dancers and swimmers.

      You can stretch it mainly by crossing your leg while seated applying pressure on the knee of the elevated leg.

      As part of our curriculum we took a flexibility class. I seem to recall spiral diagonal PNF patterns as a method to increase strength and range of motion. There are upper and lower patterns, it’s a pretty extensive explanation so I will cover it as my next topic.

    • January 13, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      Matt – a good way to stretch the pirformis is to do pigeon pose, but it requires a lot of external rotation in the hip. Another good one is a supine stretch against the wall : http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/flexibilityandstretching/qt/Lying-Piriformis-str.htm
      As far as strengthening it – it’s a hard muscle to isolate but a good way to strengthen all of the external rotators is to be on all fours. Lift one leg, keep it straight and level with the hip as you turn the thigh out and back to neutral about 10 times on each side.

  2. Steven
    February 6, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    What stretches do you do?

    • Carlos Flores
      February 9, 2013 at 10:33 pm

      The stretches I perform are influenced by yoga poses. I have a friend that has been through many flexibility workshops she has been helping me in stretching prescription. I honestly don’t know the names but one is a self PNF quad stretch. One is a runners pose, and the last I can’t remember the name but it is very similar to the runners pose. I through in a bunch of other basic stretches in there for Glutes, hams and calves. The Glutes is figure 4 stretch with one legged straightened. Th hams is standing crossover and then touching your toes. Calves I use the floor in a sprinters pose with one leg over.

      Please use caution if you decide to do any of theses stretches. I am by no means prescribing them for anyone but myself. Use at your discretion and at your own risk.

      Hope that clarifies your question.

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