Friday, April 10, 2015

Want to Increase Your Overhead Press?

The wise-man built his house upon a rock, right? Why? Because if he built it on sand the house wouldn't have the required support to stay strong. Simple concept. So how do you build a strong foundation for your shoulders?

Your shoulder joint, or your glenohumeral joint, is controlled and moved by numerous muscles which are your deltoids, pec major, lats, rotator cuff, bicep brachii, tricep brachii, coracobrachialis and teres major. Some of those muscles will play a role in creating the movement that makes up the movement path of an overhead press. What we are concerned with though are the muscles that will help stabilize your "scapulothoracic joint" however.

I put that in quotation marks because it's not your typical joint consisting of two bones held together by ligaments. The scapula isn't connected to your ribcage by ligaments, but they interact so it's called a joint.  In order to generate a decent amount of force in our glenohumeral joint we need to have our foundation that is our scapulothoracic joint to be held solid. What can make this complex is that we still need our scapula to move as our arm moves upward. Upward rotation of the scapula makes up one-third of the required movement needed to get our arm up overhead. We need to have stability throughout the entire movement path. The scapula typically wants to tip, or flair out to the sides, or people try to squeeze them together which prevents the upward rotation. We need a nice controlled upward rotation.

The starting point for this control starts with strengthening the middle back (i.e. middle trap and rhomboids) and external shoulder rotators (infraspinatus and teres minor). That combination of weakness and imbalance is a common pattern caused by postural distortions. We slouch, we constantly work with our hands out in front of us, and we care more about our bench press numbers than we do about how much we can row. That is where my first recommendation comes in, check-in with your row. Can you pull what you can push? There are recommendations out there that take it steps further and recommend that you can pull more than you can push, even well beyond 150% of what you can bench press. I'll leave that to you. My experience has shown that clients can pull a fraction of what they can push, so that's why I start there and ask you to do a quick check-in.

Next step is to strengthen the support muscles while introducing the movement. There are two ways you can do this. One way is the Prone Military Press- use a light enough weight that you can keep form- we want you to be able to keep your arms in line with your body, which means not allowing your arms to internally rotate and your humerus from horizontally abducting.


The other way is a banded military press with the resistance coming from the front. In this video I also add in an external rotation at the start.

Once you feel like you have good control of this movement you can progress to the next step which is adding some resistance in the actual press. Keep the weight light enough that you can still keep the control you felt in the earlier versions.

Everyone is going to need a different amount of time to progress so I can't give a good general recommendation on how long you should do this. Listen to your body and don't let your ego get the best of you. Do your sets until you feel like you did every rep with quality, not just until you can do 1 decent rep out of the set. Continue your pressing program so you don't lose ground, but add this in as a finisher or as a reminder to your system before you start your sets.

Good luck, I hope to hear about your new found gains and PR's!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Lift You Should Be Doing - Front-Racked Step-Ups

This weeks "Lift you should be doing" is the Front-Racked Step-Up. Step-ups are a great way to target your legs in general. They call on your Quads and Glutes/Hamstrings to give you the normal squat motion of knee extension and hip extension. By only using one leg you can call the stabilizers into a bigger role to create a well-balanced and strong system.

The addition of the barbell in a front-racked position will call on your spinal stabilizers and erectors, the erector spinae group, to keep you from bending over forward. As you start to step up onto the box, your torso will naturally lean forward, but your erectors will have to contract isometrically (without movement) to keep you upright.

This "anti-flexion" movement is argued as the better, or at least the preferred way to strengthen the erectors, specifically in the lumbar region. We used isometric holds regularly in physical therapy to help strengthen any muscle that needed it- it was an important component to the strengthening process. Give it a try when it fits into your workout and let us know what you think!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Advanced Foam Rolling Techniques - Part 2

Our next advanced technique is called Active Lengthening. It combines the pressure of normal foam rolling with a muscle contraction. Because we have a muscle contraction involved we can achieve a much deeper release of the connective tissue.  "As the muscle fibers naturally broaden and lengthen during the contraction, pressure of the friction stroke intensifies these movements to release any restriction between fibers. ... The technique also causes a reflexive reduction of muscle tension, presumably by stimulating the muscle spindle and Golgi tendon organ(GTO) with intensified lengthening and tension output" (Archer, 2007)

The GTO causes a reaction called the inverse myotatic reflex- skeletal muscle contraction causes the antagonist(opposite) muscle to simultaneously lengthen and relax. So by contracting the hamstrings, we are using the nervous system to help us relax the quads. It's not a perfect system, but you get the idea. By combining a nervous system reflex, the stimulus from rolling, and the mechanical friction on the muscle we can get a better response to your foam rolling.

The video example is of foam rolling the quads, our knee extensors. We start by putting the muscle in a shortened position, in this case by extending the knee. Then as we apply pressure just above the kneecap we slowly flex our knee as we roll up the thigh. 

**As always, remember to roll toward your heart as you roll out your arms and legs. Visit the post Foam Rolling Techniques from a Massage Therapist and refer to Rule #2.

Work Cited
Archer, P. (2007). Therapeutic massage in athletics. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Advanced Foam Rolling Techniques - Part 1

You don’t have to look hard to find someone talking about the benefits of using a foam roller/lacrosse ball. They’re a great example of how something so simple can cause a great change. But people have barely scratched the surface of the potential within these little tools, we can use them to mimic so many massage techniques that can have an even greater effect.

In the injury rehab world these techniques are known by many names- Active Release Technique, Active Myofascial Release, Osteokinematics and Active Assistive Release. Each of these techniques incorporate contraction of correlating muscles while work is being done. They are using neuromuscular theories to help the muscles relax through getting the nervous system involved at a higher level. The nervous system has many ways of getting a muscle to relax, often those ways prove to have more permanent effects.

Inside each of your muscles you have proprioceptors that tell your brain what’s going on with your muscle- amount of stretch or lengthening and the amount of contraction or tension. By adding in movement to your foam rolling you are incorporating these senses into the treatment and allowing their signaled responses to help cause change.

The first technique that I’d like to show you is one you may have already done briefly without noticing- the Pin and Stretch. Just like the name implies, you pin down the muscle and then stretch (lengthen) it out. This is going to require that you have some kind of muscular knowledge, which I’m sure you’ve been paying attention to what muscles activate with what movements. But, this is info that you can easily find online on any kind of anatomy or kinesiology website. Below is a quick example of the Pin and Stretch with the hamstrings.

As you can see, the ball isn’t rolling it’s just providing some pin-point friction to my hamstring. I’m contracting my quads which is causing my hamstrings to lengthen and move across the ball. Instead of moving the ball or roller along the muscle we’re doing the opposite and having the muscle do the moving. By having my quads contract we’re using the ideas behind reciprocal inhibition to help cause further change to our hamstrings. You will have to move the ball or roller around after a few contractions, but I’m positive that you will feel the difference in the technique.

One more example using a foam roller on the lats

Give it a try on your stubborn areas and see if the extra involvement causes some changes for you. As always- the deeper you go, the slower you should go; If it’s painful it’s probably too much; and don’t do any deep/corrective work postworkout.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

How Athletes Can Benefit from Massage Therapy

*** As seen on Fitocracy's Knowledge Center ***

*Reduced muscle tension 1, 2, 3
*Reduced muscle hyper-tonicity 1, 3
*Increased range of motion 1, 2, 3, 4
*Improved soft tissue function 1, 2
*Decreased muscle stiffness and fatigue after exercise 2, 3, 5
*Improved exercise performance 2, 3, 5, 6
*Decreased delayed onset muscle soreness 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
*Reduced swelling/edema 2, 10

Each time we exercise we hope we are stressing our muscles enough to cause a change. That change doesn’t come without a price though. Muscle stiffness, soreness, micro-trauma, inflammation, joint disorders, all start to take their toll on our bodies. Massage can be the solution to both the physical and mental strain we endure for our healthy lifestyles. 

The benefits seen above only scratch the surface as research attempts to prove the validity of the claims the massage industry has made for years. The benefits that I hope will stick with you are related to helping you function better and prevent future injuries. The main concern sports therapists and structural bodyworkers have is to help the body realign itself so the musculature can work better as a team in supporting our bodies against gravity. As the body shifts out of alignment the joints are stressed in a different way than they were intended for and muscles are recruited for motions they weren’t designed for. Often we think that stretching or foam rolling will help us achieve the muscular balance we need, but only if you know what muscle(s) or fascial sheets are the exact cause. 

            One of the best examples I can think of relates to shoulder imbalances. Many posts in forums will talk about how someone can’t get into the front rack position, or maybe they have shoulder pain during bench press. These can be complicated issues that a general stretching or foam rolling program won’t work for. A qualified massage therapist can assess which muscles are tight because they are short (concentrically loaded), and which muscles are tight because they are locked long (eccentrically loaded). An example of this would be in a person who has the sloucher’s posture from working at a desk all day. Their Pectoralis Minor and the lower head of their Trapezius is tight. Which one do we want to lengthen and which one do we want to strengthen? Your massage therapist has the tools to read posture and determine those types of patterns. They could then give personalized exercises, stretches, and muscles to roll out that will fit their exact need, not the general populations.

There are many types of massage that can assist you in your training, some to consider are

Deep Tissue – lengthens short muscles, helps restore blood flow to restricted areas, and relieves pain.
Trigger Point Therapy – Those fun knots/tender points that cause random pain in other parts of your body. “Where you think the problem is, it ain’t” – Ida Rolf
Structural Integration/Rolfing – Alignment therapies. That dropped arch in your foot might be what causing your neck pain.
Thai Massage – The lazy man’s yoga. All the benefits of yoga, without having to do the work!

1- Brukner, P., and Khan, K., with colleagues. (2009). Clinical Sports Medicine. Sydney, Australia: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

2- Fritz, S. (2005). Sports & Exercise Massage: Comprehensive Care in Athletics, Fitness, & Rehabilitation. St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Mosby9

3- Archer, P. (2007). Therapeutic Massage in Athletics. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

4- Crosman, L.J., Chateauvert, S.R., Weisberg, J. (1984). The effects of massage to the hamstring muscle group on range of motion. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, 6(3):168-72

5- Ogai, R., Yamane, M., Matsumoto, T. Kosaka, M. (2008). Effects of petrissage massage on fatigue and exercise performance following intensive cycle pedaling. BR J Sports Med, 42(10):834-8

6- Brooks, C.P., Woodruff, L.D., Wright, L.L., Donatelli, R. (2005). The immediate effects of manual massage on power-grip performance after maximal exercise in healthy adults. J Altern Complement Med, 11(6):1093-101

7- Farr, T., Nottle, C., Nosaka, K., Sacco, P. (2002). The effects of therapeutic massage on delayed onset muscle soreness and muscle function following downhill walking. J Sci Med Sport, 5(4):297-306.

8- Hilbert, J.E., Sforzo, G.A., Swensen, T. (2003). The effects of massage on delayed onset muscle soreness. Br J Sports Med, 37(1):72-5.

9-Smith, L.L., Keating, M.N., Holbert, D., Spratt, D.J., McCammon, M.R., Smith, S.S., Israel, R.G. (1994). The effects of athletic massage on delayed onset muscle soreness, creatine kinase, and neutrophil count: a preliminary report. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, 19(2):93-9. 
10- Bakowski, P., Musielak, B., Sip, P., Bieganski, G. (2008). Effects of massage on delayed-onset muscle soreness. Chir Narzadow Ruchu Ortop Pol, 73(4):261-5.
11 - Frey Law, L.A., Evans, S., Knudtson, J., Nus, S., Scholl, K., Sluka, K.A. (2008). Massage reduces pain perception and hyperalgesia in experimental muscle pain: a randomized, controlled trial. J Pain, 9(8):714-21.

12- Zainuddin, Z., Newton, M., Sacco, P., Nosaka, K. (2005). Effects of Massage on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, Swelling, and Recovery of Muscle Function. J Athl Train, 40(3): 174–180.