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Brian Schiff’s Blog

Injury Prevention, Sports Rehab & Performance Training Expert

Archive for 'Core'

Increasing shoulder, torso and hip strength and stability is a common training goal for athletes involved in sport.  Facilitating hip disassociation and kinetic chain linking with exercise is always a plus.  I like to use a diagonal mountain climber with hip extension to accomplish these objectives. More specifically, I utilize this exercise with my overhead athletes and anyone involved in cutting, pivoting and rotational sports.

Begin in a tall plank position.  The hands should be beneath the shoulders with the feet on the floor and shoulder width apart.  Slowly bring the left knee/hip under the body and toward the right elbow.  Pause at the end point prior to losing form or control.

Next, return the left leg toward the start position and up into full hip extension in one continuous movement.  Pause at the top end of available hip extension and repeat the cycle for 10 repetitions or time on the same leg.  Alternate legs and perform 2-3 sets on each side.

Sufficient upper body strength and core/hip stability in a 3 point position is necessary to perform the exercise correctly.  At no time should the foot of the moving leg touch the floor or be used to balance the body.  As far as a pace, I feel using a 1/1/1/1 cadence works best.

This exercise is an excellent way to promote shoulder, core and hip stability while facilitating hip disassociation as well.  Driving the hip back up into extension will activate the gluteals and simultaneously force the stable (fixed) hip to stabilize the pelvis and counterbalance the movement pattern. In addition, the client will have to effectively activate the hip and abdominal musculature throughout to avoid unwanted pelvic tilt/rotation during the movement.

Click here to view the full video of this exercise I did for my ‘Functionally Fit’ column for PFP Magazine.

Core strength and stability deficits are apparent in many people.  The ability to restrain movement while keeping a stable base or pillar is essential for injury prevention.  Building prerequesite pillar (hips, torso and shoulders) stability is important before loading a pattern and moving more explosively.  This exercise I recently featured for PFP Magazine incorporates a progression for both options.

Application:  Poor hip, trunk and shoulder stability elevates injury risk with daily activities and sport.  This movement introduces controlled hip extension, torso rotation and shoulder elevation, while aiming to improve pillar strength and stability.  The handle bar moves around the bar facilitating a safe and smooth motion.  Using both hands allows for more control initially allowing the client to incrementally adjust the amount of rotation while they learn to move in a 3D manner.  Working in a slower manner will effectively train anti-rotation strength /control as well.

The exercise progression provides an option to train explosively to develop power from the ground up using both upper extremities similar to a push press except introducing some rotation to the movement.  Overall, this exercise offers a great way to train the entire kinetic chain in a multiplanar fashion.

Precautions: Clients with any existing rotator cuff and/or labral pathology or low back dysfunction should proceed with caution initially mastering controlled form with light loads and not push through any discomfort.  Be sure to use proper body mechanics when lifting the bar off the ground as well.

I like to include exercises on this blog that are useful for rehab and fitness professionals as well as fitness enthusiasts who visit. This is a cool exercise that a colleague taught me.  I also recently shared this as part of my ‘Functionally Fit’ column for PFP Magazine.  It works great when doing partner workouts or if coaching a client.  We used it during our off season training for the Carolina Hurricanes and it is much harder than it looks on the surface.

Training clients to maintain core stiffness in athletic functional positions will improve performance and reduce injury risks for the spine and lower extremities. This exercise is an effective way to address postural stability, increase core strength and enhance kinetic chain proprioception

atlas-split-squats

Execution

Begin in a split squat position holding a stability ball overhead. The client maintains an isometric split squat while the coach/trainer provides directional perturbations in an attempt to disrupt balance and stability.

You may opt for several quick rhythmic perturbations or elect to use more sustained pushes (1-2 seconds in each direction) to challenge the client. Allow the client to reset to the desired position if he/she does lose balance in order to facilitate optimal motor patterning. Perform 30 seconds with the left leg forward, rest 30 seconds and then repeat with the right leg forward. Complete two sets on each side.

Be sure to observe asymmetries or deviations specific to either side as this will allow for better cuing and reveal energy leaks. Marking the desired distance between the front heel and rear foot toes with tape will ensure consistency for each trial side-to-side.

Application

This exercise is very effective in training kinetic chain stability and proprioception. Holding the ball overhead allows the trainer to challenge clients to resist movement in the sagittal, frontal and transverse planes through upper body driven loads and feedback. Additionally, the client must focus on maintaining an upright posture while the lower body musculature remains engaged.

Regression

For those with difficulty holding the ball overhead, consider holding the ball at shoulder height at first. Keep in mind the perturbations should be graded and not designed to push the client over or completely off balance.
One additional note to consider: you may opt to instruct the client to remain rigid throughout the drill or allow them to be relaxed and then respond with reactive rigidity when the perturbation comes.  Experiment with your clients and programs and see what you think!

I readily admit I have had an aversion to abdominal exercises that involve straight leg lowering since my days in pee wee football where we were forced to do lifts and holds a few inches above the ground.  Some will relate to a modern day version of this exercise known as “six inches.”

As someone with tight hip flexors and who has personally suffered from sciatica in the past, I am NOT a fan of abdominal training that exposes the lumbar spine to large loads and undue risk related to exercises that involve long levers (e.g. throw downs, scissors, etc) and place high shear force on the spine.

I was reminded of why I feel this way in a fitness class this past week.  I take a cycle/core class at my local gym and have done a traditional spinning class twice per week for 3 years.  After 45 minutes of cycle, we move to a fitness room for core.  I have done this new format for three weeks. This week we were asked to do a series of exercises which included “banana rolls.” If you are unfamiliar with this move, check out You Tube for some video demos.

While this exercise may be effective for core strengthening, I can honestly say as one who has never done the move before that trying to execute it as part of a continuous sequence of movements without rest between the moves was very hard to do with proper form.   The fatigued state encouraged using momentum and straining to simply get the movement done (not to mention the fact my greater trochanter was sore from the rolling on the hard aerobic floor).

The next day I woke up with low back pain.  My back has not hurt like that in years.  In light of the role the iliopsoas plays by virtue of its attachment on the lumbar spine, we must consider the impact of reverse muscle action and how it creates shear on the lumbar spine during movements that rely on stabilization with the legs extended against gravity.  Additionally, for those clients like me with muscle tightness, increased lumbar lordosis and a history of low back disorders, health and fitness professionals must consistently evaluate safety and efficacy as well as trying to challenge clientele in a workout session.

For all of these reasons, I increasingly rely on neutral spine anti-extension and anti-rotation training exercises in my programming for athletes and clients of all ages and abilities.  That is not to say I never do rotational or active movements.  They are appropriate given the right order, progression and demands of the respective individual. I just think we must consider form and risk versus reward in exercise programming.

The exercise video below illustrates how to use sliders in a tall plank position to accomplish great core activation and hip/shoulder stability without stressing the lumbar spine with long lever movements. Keep in mind that quality should override quantity in terms of deciding repetition schemes. Do not let the desire to fatigue clients cause form to suffer as this may increase injury risk.

For more specifics on the execution and progression/regression of this particular exercise, click the link below to read my most recent exercise column for PFP Magazine.

Tall plank shoulder circles

Suffice it to say I will not be doing banana rolls again. While I am not completely discarding the exercise, I do think it should be done in a non-fatigued state and taught incrementally if done at all. Most importantly, we as fitness professionals must always remember to program exercises based on fatigue and skill level, while carefully weighing risk versus reward in group or individual sessions.

I utilize bridging as an assessment and exercise tool in my training and rehab programs.  Posterior chain/hip stability is poor in many clients.  The ability to maintain a neutral spine, engage the glutes and fight rotation is NOT an easy task by any means. So, coaching and cueing proper bridging is a great way to enhance pillar strength and reduce injury risk, while facilitating better movement patterns in sport.

I wrote a recent column for PFP magazine entitled iso bridge with alternate knee extension.  Click here to read the column and the application, regression and progression of the exercise.  In addition, I have included a short video below showing double leg and single leg bridge exercises that can be used to work on the hips and core.  The second exercise is the dynamic version of the iso alternate knee extension bridge I write about. I show you some of the single leg progressions that come after mastering the iso bridge as well.

I hope this video and article is useful to you.  I also want to take this opportunity to thank you for reading my blog and wish you a very Happy New Year!