Share   Subscribe to RSS feed

Brian Schiff’s Blog

Injury Prevention, Sports Rehab & Performance Training Expert

Tag: glute training

Every year I like to look back and reflect on things I have learned, things I have changed my mind about and of course clinical pearls that stand out.  Over the past year, I have been sharpening my IASTM skills, begun to practice dry needling techniques, and scrutinizing my hip and core exercises that I routinely use in rehab.

I look forward to sharing more about my clinical experiences with dry needling in 2014, but I feel the most critical and recurring theme of 2013 has been the overwhelming impact I have seen poor ankle dorsiflexion have on my patients.  I treat scores or runners, triathletes and clients with knee pain.  The most common issues in this group of clientele tends to be IT band friction syndrome or patellofemoral pain.

When I assess this group of patients, I routinely find the following:

  1. Poor dorsiflexion
  2. TFL dominance
  3. Glute weakness

Any time I evaluate a runner, I assess closed chain dorsiflexion (DF) mobility.  This can be assessed in half kneeling on the floor or standing at a wall.  I suggest removing the shoes during the assessment to eliminate any rise from the heel in the shoe that may bias the movement.  In addition, I hold the ankle in subtalar neutral to get a true assessment without allowing pronation.

The image below simply demonstrates the assessment position as well as the corrective exercise that can be used to facilitate better motion.

half-kneeling-ankle-dorsiflexion-assessment-finish

Clients should be able to attain about 5 inches of clearance beyond the toes without lifting the heel or relying on pronation to get there. I routinely see limited mobility, and more importantly almost 100% of the time I find asymmetry on the side of the affected knee.

I recently evaluated a 29 y/o active female client who does Crossfit 3x/week and likes to run.  She has not been running much due to chronic right lateral knee pain and medial calf pain.  Her goal is to get back to running half-marathons.  Upon evaluation, her overhead squat assessment revealed pronation and external rotation bilaterally, right greater then left.  Her standing wall DF assessment revealed nearly a 1 inch deficit on the right side (about 3 inches), while her left side was 4 inches.

Below is how she looked on the treadmill video analysis I performed:

pronation-hip-drop-rear

You can see the highlighted areas in the photo above.  She has a marked amount of pronation in mid stance as well as left pelvic drop due to poor gluteal activation.  The poor hip stability and activation on the right side also plays directly into TFL dominance with the repetitive femoral internal rotation and adducted position of her right hip..

This poor biomechanical chain is set into motion by poor dorsiflexion mobility.  Runners can get away with this for shorter distances (3-4 miles) in many cases, but increased mileage leads to shin splints, calf strains, IT friction syndrome and patellofemroal pain.  You can see how this poor kinetic chain movement leads to ongoing microtrauma and eventually debilitating pain and dysfunction.  No matter how much one rests, going back to higher mileage will yield the same result.

In my client’s case, she also had a trigger point in her medial soleus - another issue connected with the ankle mobility problem. Her primary treatment plan will focus on soft tissue mobilization for the gastroc/soleus complex, TFL/ITB and glutes/piriformis, ankle dorsiflexion mobility exercises, IASTM to her gastroc/soleus/Achilles, single leg balance and strengthening and hip/core activation and stability work.

I am confident all of this will effectively resolve her pain.  However, it all begins with restoring ankle mobility.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  I strongly believe the picture I included of my client on the treadmill speaks volumes as to how poor ankle mobility can lead to unwanted compensatory motion, gluteal inhibition and overuse injuries.  The take home message here is be sure to assess ankle mobility in the presence of any lower extremity pain or dysfunction as it is often a critical piece of the puzzle in the face or recurring injury and chronic pain.

I think it is safe to say most would agree that deadlifts are great for building maximal lower body strength. Elite Olympic weightlifters are generally able to lift more loads in this lift compared to other free weight exercises.  I know personally that I like to use it to develop lumbar extensor strength, as well as in place of the squat if I want to avoid spinal compression from the weight of the bar.

In the past I have heard some strength coaches say they don’t use a hex bar for deadlifts because it is not the same as lifting a straight bar.  While not always sure exactly what they mean by that, I found a recent article in the July 2011 Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research very insightful.  The researchers looked at the difference between straight and hexagonal bar deadlifts in submax loading situations.

The concern with deadlifting has always been stress on the spine.  The study notes:

“For world class athletes lifting extremely heavy loads, lumbar disk compression forces as large as 36,400 N have been reported.”

Lifters have long been encouraged to keep the barbell as close to them as possible to reduce the moment arm. The issue with the straight bar is that it can impinge on the body.  Thus, the trap bar or hex bar apparatus was developed.  The researchers hypothesized that the hex bar would reduce the joint movements and resistance moment arms.  In addition, they hypothesized that larger forces would be produced with the submax loads.

The study use 19 male powerlifters and was conducted 3 months after their most recent competition where most were at the end of a training cycle aimed at matching or exceeding their previous competition performance.  The subjects (following their own warm-up) performed HBD and SBD at 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and 80% of his SBD 1RM.  Twelve markers were placed on the body for biomechanical analysis.


Continue reading…